A vandalism occurs under Penal Code section 594(a) whenever a person maliciously does any of the following to property belonging to another:
- Defaces with graffiti or other inscribed material.
When the amount of property damage is less than $400 and the accused has no prior vandalism convictions, a vandalism may only be charged as a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of one year in county jail and/or a $1,000 fine. When the amount of property damage is $400 or more, a vandalism may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor (aka, a “wobbler”). For those vandalisms that are charged as felonies, the maximum punishment depends on whether the amount of damage caused is less than $10,000 or is $10,000 or more. When the amount of damage is under $10,000 (but equal to or greater than $400), the maximum punishment is three years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine. When the amount of damage is equal to or exceeds $10,000, the max jail is still three years, but the max fine goes up to $50,000. A typical feature of vandalism cases is that if you are convicted, restitution will likely be owed in the amount of damage either agreed to by the defendant or established by the prosecution at a restitution hearing. If the vandalism is committed for the benefit of or at the direction of a criminal street gang (e.g., gang graffiti), a gang enhancement may be added under Penal Code 186.22(d) and the maximum punishment is three years if the case is filed as a felony (if filed as a misdemeanor, the minimum jail is 180 days while the max is one year). If a person convicted of vandalism is under 21, the court may also suspend their driver’s license for up to two years under Vehicle Code section 13202.6.
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