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San Diego Vandalism Lawyer

Vandalism is a pretty common crime in California. Most people would consider vandalism more of a minor crime, however, depending on certain circumstances, it can be a pretty serious charge. The law is outlined for us in Cal. Penal Code Ann. § 594

 Every person who maliciously commits any of the following acts with respect to any real or personal property not his or her own, in cases other than those specified by state law, is guilty of vandalism:(1) Defaces with graffiti or other inscribed material. (2) Damages. (3) Destroys. Whenever a person violates this subdivision with respect to real property, vehicles, signs, fixtures, furnishings, or property belonging to any public entity, as defined by Section 811.2 of the Government Code, or the federal government, it shall be a permissive inference that the person neither owned the property nor had the permission of the owner to deface, damage, or destroy the property.

There are three applicable elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be convicted of vandalism. However, there are some defenses that may be available if one is charged with vandalism. The penalties vary drastically depending on the damage done during the course of the crime.  Lastly, there are some mitigating factors that could possibly play a role in sentencing if one is convicted of vandalism.

Understanding the Elements of a Vandalism Charge in San Diego

There are three applicable elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be guilty of vandalism. The first element is (A) that you maliciously "defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material," damaged, or destroyed property. The second element is, (B) that you did not own the property or owned it with someone else. The last element is (C) at the amount of the defacement, damage or destruction was either a. less than $400 in a misdemeanor prosecution or b. $400 or more in a felony prosecution. The last element deals more with the penalties of the crime but is still considered an element and must be proven by the prosecution. Cal. Penal Code Ann. § 594. All three of elements must be meant in order to be found guilty of vandalism. Thus, there are three elements applicable to vandalism.

The first element to vandalism is that you maliciously "defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material," damaged, or destroyed property.

The first element to vandalism is that you maliciously "defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material, damaged, or destroyed property.” Cal Pen Code § 594.This element can be broken down into three parts to make it easier to really understand d the statute. The first will consist of defining what maliciously means or requires of the person charged. The second part of this element is in regard to the part concerned with defacing with graffiti or other inscribed material. Lastly, is the more simple part where if the property is damaged or destroyed it is also applicable to the charge.

Maliciously is the mental state requirement for vandalism. It is defined as “intentionally do a wrongful act, or act with the unlawful intent to annoy or injure someone else.” Cal Crim 2900. This looks at one’s actions and what their intent was when the vandalism occurred. One has to purposefully do a “wrongful act.” For example, someone steals Jeff’s parking spot at the mall one day and Jeff goes and keys that specific car after he finds a spot. Jeff ay not intended to break the law but because he intended to the wrongful act he would have fulfilled the malicious mental state of the element. In addition, this example can fulfill the other part because the keying of a car would annoy and injure another person. An example of a one not acting maliciously would be that Jeff left his shopping cart by the curb but somehow the shopping cart rolled and scratched someone’s car. Because Jeff did not intend for the car to be scratched and nor did he want to annoy or injure someone he was not malicious. Thus, in the first element of vandalism, the person charged must act maliciously.

The next part of this element is that one defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material. Graffiti or other inscribed material includes an unauthorized inscription, word, figure, mark, or design that is written, marked, etched, scratched, drawn, or painted on real or personal property. Cal Crim 2900. It is important to note that, “To "deface" under Penal Code section 594 does not require that the defacement be permanent.” In re Nicholas Y. (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 941, 944. Essentially, just because the property can be fixed does not matter under this rule. Graffiti would certainly be the most common example of fulfilling this element, it is common amongst teenagers and gangs to mark territory. However, there are some other examples that may not come to mind right way while thinking of this element. One being related to the example stated above, keying another’s car. This “etching or scratching” onto another’s personal property and would fit into the definition. Another example that may seem a little odd would be writing in wet cement. This seems like something harmless, however, it could easily qualify as vandalism if it is done to another’s property. Therefore, if the property is defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material it could satisfy this part of the element.

Lastly, it is also possible that the property is damaged or destroyed, and that would fulfill the first element. If the property is completely destroyed then it can still be vandalism even though it was defaced or marked. An example may be breaking one’s statue in their front yard. This would still qualify as vandalism because it was destroyed. In addition, damaging would also qualify, so if a part of the statue was broken but repairable it would still fulfill the element.

Accordingly, the first element to vandalism is that one maliciously defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material, damaged, or destroyed property.

The second element to vandalism is that you did not own the property or owned it with someone else.

The second element to vandalism is that you did not own the property or owned it with someone else. There are two different sections of the above element, the first being public property. The next referring to property that is jointly owned by the person charged along with another. Thus there

When it comes to public property, the jury is allowed to presume that you did not own the property; and did not have permission to deface, damage, or destroy it. Cal. Penal Code Ann. § 594.  This can encompass an over pass or park bench. So, if the vandalism occurs on public property the second element would be meant, there would not be an argument that the public owns the property and person charged is a part of the public. Thus, public property is presumed to not be owned by the person charged.

The second possibility is that the property is owned by the person charged and another.  This is most common with a husband and a wife, and the rule is that one can be convicted of vandalizing their own property if the defaced, damaged, or destroyed property belonged to both them and their spouse.  People v. Wallace, (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 144, 149. An example of this would be that one spouse is enraged and start breaking things inside the home, this would be vandalism even though the one charged is of ownership of the property. Because the property also belongs to the other spouse. Therefore, property jointly owned can still qualify for this element.

Accordingly, the second element to vandalism is that you did not own the property or owned it with someone else.

The final element regards whether the amount of the defacement, damage, or destruction was either a. less than $400 in a misdemeanor prosecution or b. $400 or more in a felony prosecution.

The final element regards whether the amount of the defacement, damage, or destruction was either a. less than $400 in a misdemeanor prosecution or b. $400 or more in a felony prosecution. This element is more along the lines of penalties. However, this is important because if one is getting charged with a felony the cost of repair must be four hundred dollars. The prosecution has to show that the cost did exceed the for hundred dollars, and if they cannot then the charge would not be applicable.  If the price of repair falls underneath the four hundred dollars then the charge can only be a misdemeanor. It is essential to have the state show that every element is fulfilled when one is being charged.

If there are multiple instances of vandalism there is a possibly that they are added together, As with theft offenses, multiple instances of misdemeanor vandalism can be aggregated to form a single felony unless "the evidence shows that the offenses are separate and distinct and were not committed pursuant to one intention, one general impulse, and one plan."  Bailey, supra, 55 Cal.2d 514, 11 Cal.Rptr. 543. The prosecution would have to show that the multiple cases were of the same impulse or plan to aggregate the charges which may then equal a felony. But if it can be shown otherwise then there is a possibility that the misdemeanors will not reach the felony level. Thus, the third element is concerning the amount of money spent to repair or replace the damage that was done.

Therefore, the rule for vandalism is that one maliciously "defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material," damaged, or destroyed property and that you did not own the property or owned it with someone else, and at the amount of the defacement, damage, or destruction was either a. less than $400 in a misdemeanor prosecution or b. $400 or more in a felony prosecution.

Understanding the Defenses to a Vandalism Charge in San Diego

There are multiple applicable defenses if one is charged with vandalism that could possibly have the charges dropped. The first defense would be that the vandalism was an accident. In addition, there could possibly be the defense of mistaken identity. The last defense discussed would be that the allegations are false. Thus, are some different defenses that could possibly be used in one’s situation.

The first defense is that the vandalism was an accident, if this is valid it is possible that the charge would be dropped.

The first defense is that the vandalism was an accident, if this is valid it is possible that the charges would be dropped. This would basically disprove that the first element took place because the person charged was malicious. Like the example from earlier where Jeff leaves a shopping cart out that rolls into a car and scratches it he did not commit vandalism. Because it was an accident it was not within his intent for any damage to occur and he did not want to injure the other party. If the act was an accident t would be an applicable defense to the vandalism charge. Thus, if the act was unintentional the accident would be an available legal defense.

In addition, it is possible that there was a mistaken identity and one did not engage in vandalism, which means that one cannot be charged with the crime.

In addition, it is possible that there was a mistaken identity and one did not engage in vandalism, which means that one cannot be charged with the crime. This is a very real possibility because of the nature of the crime, especially with regard to graffiti. This is because the act would usually occur at night when one cannot see quite as well. The person charged may fit the description but it was not them, this would be a mistaken identity and a defense to the charge. Another possible scenario is that the person was there with a group of people, but you were charged and another did the crime. If you were mistakenly arrested or accused because you were there or fit the profile then this would be a possible defense. Thus, mistaken identity is a possible defense depending on the situation of the case.

The last possible defense discussed is a false allegation, it is not uncommon for one to falsely accuse another of a crime for a variety of reasons.

The last possible defense discussed is a false allegation, it is not uncommon for one to falsely accuse another of a crime for a variety of reasons. One example of false allegations would be spouses who got in a fight and one damaged property and alleged it was the other to get them arrested. This would go back to the second element discussed concerning damage over the joint property. Another would be a neighbor has a dispute with someone and purposely damages their property and blames them for it to get them into trouble. With proper questions of the accuser, it is possible that holes can be found in their story. This could discredit the allegations and show that the one charged in fact had nothing to with the crime. Thus, false allegations would be a possible defense.

Therefore, there are multiple possibilities of defenses depending on the certain situation of the case.

Understanding the punishment for a Vandalism Charge in San Diego

Vandalism penalties can vary dramatically depending on what the specifics of the case are and the total damages are. The highest charge of vandalism one can face is a felony charge.  The next step down would be a misdemeanor charge. The lowest charge that may applicable would be an infraction. Vandalism essentially can be charged as almost anything. Therefore, the penalty depends on the specifics of the case and the damages from the vandalism.

For vandalism to be charged as a felony the damage must be or exceeded four hundred dollars.

For vandalism to be charged as a felony the damage must be or exceeded four hundred dollars. Cal Pen Code § 594. If the charge is a felony the max amount of time would be one year in county jail and a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars. However, if the damage exceeded ten thousand, then the fine could potentially be up to fifty thousand dollars.

A misdemeanor charge of vandalism means that the damages have to be less than four hundred dollars.

A misdemeanor charge of vandalism means that the damages have to be less than four hundred dollars. Cal Pen Code § 594. The time served at most would be one year in county jail, and up to a five thousand dollar fine if you have a previous vandalism conviction. In addition, there may be possibilities of community service, required counseling, and maybe a suspension of drivers license.

For an infraction, the form of vandalism you are charged with has to be defacing property with "graffiti or other inscribed material" and the cost to repair the graffiti damage is less than two hundred fifty dollars. (H3)

For an infraction, the form of vandalism you are charged with has to be defacing property with "graffiti or other inscribed material" and the cost to repair the graffiti damage is less than two hundred fifty dollars. However, it is important to note that this is at the prosecution’s discretion. Cal Pen Code § 640.5. If this is first conviction there may only be a fine up to one thousand dollars and community service required. If this would be the second conviction there is a possibility to six months in county jail, a fine up to two thousand dollars, and community service.

Thus, the punishment for vandalism really depends on the specifics of the case regarding the amount of damage and number of previous convictions.

Understanding the Mitigating Factors of a Vandalism Charge in San Diego

A mitigating factor is something that has the possibility of lowering the punishment one would receive for this crime. Mitigating factors are applicable to this charge because as listed above the penalties are very flexible. The first factor would be if this was one’s first offense. The first offense the court is likely to take an easier on them and do a lighter sentence or fine, and add community service to the punishment. Another would be that the amount damage was not very much, we saw the under two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar punishment above and it dropped significantly in comparison to the others. If this applicable the court would look more favorably at lighter sentence when they decided an applicable punishment. Lastly, age could be a factor.\, if a teenager was the one charge the sentence could possibly be less harsh and be more toward counseling and community service. Accordingly, there are mitigating factors applicable to vandalism.

Hire a San Diego Vandalism Lawyer to help Win Your Case 

Accordingly, the rule for vandalism is that one maliciously "defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material," damaged, or destroyed property and that you did not own the property or owned it with someone else, and at the amount of the defacement, damage, or destruction was either a. less than $400 in a misdemeanor prosecution or b. $400 or more in a felony prosecution. There are multiple possible defenses. The punishment varies and can be a felony, misdemeanor, or infraction. Lastly, there are mitigating factors that could be applicable.

It is important to hire a lawyer that understands vandalism charges in order to win or reduce the case. Attorney Vik Monder has handled hundreds of vandalism charges in San Diego. He has won the most serious vandalism charge to the less serious charges. Attorney Vik Monder has many resources that will help tremendously in your case especially having strong relationships wit the prosecutorial agency handling your case.

Contact San Diego Vandalism Criminal Defense Attorney Vik Monder for a FREE consultation today at: 619-405-0063

Contact San Diego Criminal Attorney Vik Monder for a free consultation today at: 619-405-0063

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