Under California Penal Code § 594, it is unlawful for a person to maliciously deface with graffiti or other inscribed material, or cause to damage or destroy any real or personal property that is not his or her own.
Let's consider two examples. In the first scenario, Dan goes out at night and uses spray paint to write on a wall at the public park. He is caught by officers and arrested, eventually being charged with Vandalism.
In contrast, David goes out to his backyard at night and takes a crowbar to the gate connecting his house to the field behind his house.
Dan would likely be charged with Vandalism, because he defaced property using graffiti on property that was not his. The wall in the public park was public property, and not his own. Furthermore, the damage does not seem extensive when it is done using graffiti. Any damage that is under $400 will be charged as a misdemeanor. When the damage is over $400, it will be a felony. Therefore, Dan will be charged with a misdemeanor and will likely be found guilty if Prosecution can prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt.
David, on the other hand, caused extensive damage. If the fence was a costly one, the damages could easily exceed $400 and the charge will be filed as a felony. However, Dan owned the gate, as it was on his property and built with his money. So no matter how extensive the damage done on the property, as long as it belongs to Dan, there will be no charge for Vandalism.
If a person is charged and convicted of misdemeanor vandalism, they will fact a range of potential consequences. They may be facing informal probation, up to one year in county jail, and a maximum fine up to $5,000. There may also be additional sentences to complete requisite education or community service hours as well as license suspension.
For those that are charged and convicted of felony vandalism, the potential range of consequences is higher. They may face up to one year in County Jail, sixteen months to 3 years in State prison, a fine of up to $5,000 and probation.
A vandalism charge is considered a wobbler. A wobbler is a charge under the penal code that may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. When it is a person's first offense, the Prosecutor is often open to negotiation so that a skilled Los Angeles Criminal Defense attorney has the opportunity to persuade the Prosecutor to reduce or dismiss the charges. When the charge has the potentiality to being reduced, it is in your best interst to seek the counsel of an expert who can prepare a powerful defense and present strong negotiations to ensure the best possible result for your case.