What is the Legal Definition of Vandalism in California?

The law in Section 594 of California’s Penal Code is against vandalism. It defines the crime as maliciously destroying or damaging another person’s property and goes beyond what people consider children’s innocent acts, such as smashing neighbors’ mailboxes or scratching their cars.

A Los Angeles criminal defense attorney highlights various activities that can be considered juvenile vandalism and graffiti:

  • Removing car emblems
  • Ripping bus seats
  • Damaging benches
  • Slashing tires
  • Breaking windows
  • Toppling headstones
  • Craving initials into desks
  • Etching windows
  • Putting graffiti on school walls
  • Possession of aerosol paint containers by a minor
  • Possession of vandalism tools
  • Vandalism to churches, synagogues, government facilities, highways, or freeways

Contact a skilled Los Angeles juvenile criminal defense attorney if your child has been accused of these offenses. They can investigate the case and put up strong defenses to protect your child from facing severe consequences that come with a conviction.

Proving Vandalism

Vandalism is maliciously defacing property with graffiti or other written material or destroying or damaging another person’s property. The crime takes many forms, and for the offender to be convicted, the prosecutor must be able to prove the following elements:

  • The accused maliciously committed the offense
  • The defendant didn’t own the vandalized property, or another person owned it
  • The total amount of the vandalism or destruction was less than $400 for a misdemeanor or more than $400 for a felony

The law doesn’t require that the defacement with graffiti is permanent as long as the drawing or writing is unauthorized. The consequences can be severe upon conviction, so it’s crucial to have an experienced Los Angeles juvenile criminal defense attorney to help fight the charges.

Penalties for Vandalism and Graffiti Crimes

While vandalism laws are apparent, the legal process involving penalties and sentencing can be complicated. So, it’s in your best interest to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you understand what could happen to your child if found guilty of the offense.

Penalties for a misdemeanor vandalism charge include:

  • A maximum fine of $1,000
  • A fine of up to $5,000 if the offender has a previous conviction
  • A maximum jail term of 1 year
  • Informal probation

Penalties for a felony vandalism conviction could be stiffer than those of a misdemeanor and include:

  • A jail term of 16 months, two years, or three years
  • Felony probation with a maximum of one year in jail
  • A fine of not more than $10,000
  • A maximum fine of $50,000 if the value of the total damage is more than $10,000

An offender with at least two previous convictions for vandalism and who served a probationary term at least once after the previous convictions may not be placed on probation the subsequent time. They must serve the full jail term as required by the current offense.

What Does the Law Say About Juvenile Vandalism in California?

Vandalism is treated as a wobbler offense in California, with adults facing misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the severity of the crime and the value of the property defaced. However, juveniles don’t face charges for the crime. Instead, district attorneys file a petition against the minor, accusing them of the offense.

If the court determines beyond a reasonable doubt that a minor committed the offense, it will sustain the petition and impose a sentence at the disposition hearing. The legal justice system focuses on the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. So, the sentences could be as follows:

Informal Probation

Informal probation is the least severe consequence of a juvenile vandalism case and is a form of a diversion program. The juvenile offender must comply with the program’s rules for six months to have the petition dismissed or prevent it from being filed.

Having a skilled juvenile criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles to represent your child during the hearing is crucial. They can provide the counsel and information you need to enable your child to do the right thing during their probationary period.

Formal Probation

This sentencing requires the juvenile to attend a probation camp or hall. The program has a rigid structure with a focus on the following:

  • Training
  • Treatment
  • Education

The program can last from 3 months to one year, depending on the severity of the charges. Establishing an attorney-client relationship with an aggressive Los Angeles juvenile criminal defense lawyer is advisable to help your child through this challenging time.

Are Parents Held Accountable for Their Children’s Mistakes?

California criminal laws hold parents accountable for their children’s vandalism offenses. A juvenile court may impose a fine the offender cannot pay, requiring the parent to step in. Additionally, parents can be held accountable to ensure the offender fulfills the needed community service.

How Can a Lawyer Defend My Child Against Vandalism and Graffiti Crime Charges?

An experienced criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can use their skills and available resources to defend your child against the charges.

Some possible defense strategies they can use to convince the court to drop the charges or reduce the penalties are:

  • It was an accident
  • Your child was falsely accused of the crime
  • Mistaken identity

A Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Fighting to Protect Your Child’s Rights

If your child is facing vandalism charges in California, it’s crucial to understand the charges and the risk they face upon being found guilty of the offense. An experienced Los Angeles juvenile criminal defense lawyer can help you understand your options in helping your child fight the charges.

Our attorneys can explain the process and your best legal options. They can also create a solid defense strategy to compel the court to drop the charges or reduce the penalties. The juvenile system is complex, and your child might have a hard time without the legal representation of a skilled attorney. Call the Miranda Rights Law Firm at 213-293-1207 to schedule a FREE case evaluation.