If you or or a loved one is charged with vandalism – whether it be tagging or graffiti or defacing property – the punishments can be severe. Depending on the extent of the damage, a person accused of vandalism could be charged with a felony, face extensive fines, time in the county jail, and in some cases state prison and a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes law.
If you are the parent of a minor who is convicted of vandalism, you will be financially responsible for the damage your child caused. This is why it is important to retain a qualified criminal defense lawyer to handle your vandalism or tagging case.
Types of Vandalism Offenses
- Breaking a window or door
- Etching or carving into a piece of glass or wood such as a table, chair, desk or bench
- Tagging with markers (“tips”) or pain.
- Intentionally damaging somebody else’s property including mailboxes, cars, plants, lawn or other personal property
Felony Vandalism Charges
To be found guilty of vandalism, the prosecution must prove that a person maliciously defaced, damaged, or destroyed somebody else’s property without their permission. Under California Penal Code Section 594(b)(1):
“If the amount of defacement, damage, or destruction is four hundred dollars ($400) or more, vandalism is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or if the amount of defacement, damage, or destruction is ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or more, by a fine of not more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.”
Thus, if the amount of the damage comes to $400 or more or if the person charged has a prior criminal record or if there are allegations the vandalism was done as a “hate crime”, the offense can be prosecuted as a felony. In cases of extreme damage or repeated offenses, a person accused of felony vandalism can face time in county jail or state prison and fines of up to $10,000. If convicted of tagging or graffiti offense, there will be special conditions of probation regarding paying for repairs of the damaged property, and requirements to participate in graffiti cleanup programs.
Gang Related Vandalism
Additionally, if the prosecution believes that the tagging was done to further the activities of a criminal street gang, then a felony will be filed and a person could be charged with a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes law.
Misdemeanor Vandalism Charges
If the damage is less than $400, then only a misdemeanor offense will be charged. Misdemeanor vandalism carries the possibility of time in county jail, probation, community labor, and fines. If convicted of a misdemeanor tagging or graffiti offense, there will be additional conditions of probation, participation in graffiti cleanup programs and fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on whether or not this is a first offense. A qualified criminal defense attorney can help you avoid these harsh consequences.
Possession of Tagging or Graffiti Tools
Under California Penal Code Section 594.2, if a person is found with a marker that has a tip that is more than 3/8″ wide or a “similar implement” that is filled with ink that can’t wash off with water and intends to use that marker for tagging or graffiti, that person can be convicted of a misdemeanor.
The same goes for possession of etching tools, drill bits, glass cutters, spray paint containers (yes, this can even include fire extinguishers). But remember, possession of these materials alone is not enough for a conviction because the prosecution must also prove that someone intended to use these materials for tagging.
Hire a Vandalism Defense Attorney
Vandalism cases in Los Angeles are aggressively prosecuted and require expert legal representation to defend successfully. If you or a loved one is facing vandalism charges, Los Angeles vandalism defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg can help. Mr. Gunsberg has experience and expertise in handling both misdemeanor and felony vandalism cases with gang enhancements.
Contact criminal defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg at (323) 633-3423 for a free and confidential consultation about your case or get in touch via the secure contact form on this page. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.