In California, committing acts of vandalism and being charged can result in a variety of punishments primarily based on the dollar amount of the damage done.

As vandalism lawyers in Orange County, we can tell you this crime results in less than $400 worth of damage will usually be a misdemeanor charge, but you still can receive a fine of up to $10,000. You also can be sentenced to up to 364 days in the county jail or be sentenced to a fine, plus imprisonment.

If the vandalism results in more than $400 to repair, then you can be convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony. Most defendants don’t know that vandalism can even carry a felony charge, but it can. Vandalism is what’s called a “wobbler” crime, and, depending on all the details and the dollar amounts involved, can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

A felony conviction can put you in jail for up to three years (in state prison) or a fine of up to $10,000, or both! If the cost to repair the vandalism is more than $10,000, the fine can increase to up to $50,000.

If you have a prior conviction and the damage is less than $400, you can still be sentenced to up to 364 days in county jail, a $5,000 fine, or both.

So, if you thought that being convicted of vandalism wasn’t really “a serious problem,” you could be in for a rude awakening! It is in your best interest to consult or retain an Orange County criminal justice attorney as soon as you are able. Go over all the details of your case and let your criminal defense attorney do his or her job defending the accused.

Are There Other Punishments I Can Receive if I Am Convicted of Vandalism in California?

Other than the fines and jail time described above, there are most definitely other penalties the courts can impose on you, if you’re convicted.

Some of these may include things you might not have even thought of, such as:

  • The courts may demand that you clean up or repair the damages to the property. Using graffiti as an example, you could very well be sentenced to repairing or covering up the current graffiti. Also, you may be sentenced to a period in which you must keep the area free of all graffiti. So, if you (or possibly anyone) vandalize the area, you would be responsible for the cleaning or repair.
  • A vandalism conviction can also result in the loss of your driver’s license for up to two years. Even a minor that is more than 13 years old can be affected by this court ruling. If, at the time of the conviction, you are too young to drive, then once you are eligible your license could still be held for 1-3 years.
  • If a vandalism conviction has anything to do with defacing or damaging a church, temple, or any place of worship, it could be considered a hate crime and you can be punished severely. A first-time offender may get a misdemeanor and up to 364 days in county jail. If convicted of felony vandalism, then it gets more serious, and you can go to state prison for up to three years!
  • If you, with intent, commit vandalism on a church or any place of worship, then you would be perpetrating a “hate” crime as an act of intimidation to citizens exercising their religious beliefs as protected by the constitution. “Hate” crimes are taken profoundly serious by the California courts and may get you the maximum penalties that the law will allow.
  • Just as serious as a “hate” crime, is an individual being associated with a criminal street gang and committing vandalism that was directed by or benefits the gang. This could result in you getting a serious felony charge and be added as a “strike” on your record under the California “Three Strikes” law. This affiliation also may carry the additional punishment of up to 2-4 years in a California state prison.

It’s now obvious that a vandalism conviction can result in severe, long-term, and life-changing consequences. By meeting with your Southern California criminal justice attorney, you will have your best chance to get ahead of these dire penalties and receive the skilled representation that you desperately need.

What Are Some of the Possible Defenses I Have Against a Vandalism Charge in California?

If you’ve been charged with vandalism, there are many ways that an experienced, professional criminal justice lawyer may find suitable for your defense.

Some possible examples are:

  • Mistaken Identity: If you were with or near a person who committed the vandalism, you may still be charged. Your attorney might use the fact that you did not act in the crime to mitigate or get your charges dropped. Mistaken identity is a common defense in vandalism crimes.
  • Lack of Intent: This is another possible criminal defense for vandalism. The crime of vandalism must be shown to be committed with malicious intent to be charged as a crime. Also, to be considered vandalism, the defaced property must have been damaged without the owner’s permission.
  • Lack of Proof: Possibly a complaint has been filed against you, but the authorities may not fully pursue it, since there is a lack of proof. Your criminal defense attorney will be able to determine this information and possibly halt the legal process before it starts.
  • No Prior Vandalism Charges: If you have not had prior vandalism charges or convictions, criminal charges may be dropped in exchange for you entering a civil compromise. This only will take place if the court is amenable to the idea. In this case, you would agree to pay fines and be responsible for the clean-up or restoration of the damaged property.

Your Orange County vandalism lawyer, working with you from the beginning of your case, is your best defense against the possibly life-changing consequences of being charged with vandalism.