Many people consider vandalism to be “victimless” as long as no one injures anyone else.
However, California courts do not take kindly to individuals or groups who ruin others’ property and offenders could face harsh consequences.
Crimes classified as vandalism in California
According to Penal Code 594 PC, a person who damages, defaces or destroys the property of someone else is guilty of either a misdemeanor or felony vandalism. Examples of vandalism include:
- Spraying graffiti on buildings or bridges
- Breaking windows or bashing mailboxes
- Leaving hand or footprints in wet cement on private or public property
- Damaging the home or property during a domestic argument
- Gouging paint off a vehicle with your keys or slashing tires
Penalties for conviction of vandalism
In California, if the value of the damage is less than $400, a prosecutor will charge the offender with misdemeanor vandalism. The maximum punishment for a conviction includes up to one year in jail, informal probation and a $1,000 fine.
If the vandalism results in damage greater than $400, or if the vandal is a repeat offender, prosecutors can file felony charges. Consequences for felony vandalism include up to three years behind bars, formal probation and a $10,000-$50,000 fine. Under the terms of probation, a judge can also impose a driver’s license suspension, community service and mandatory mental health counseling orders.
The desire to vandalize property is indicative of a deeply rooted anger problem that could escalate if not addressed. In the case of rampant gang-related activity, the destruction of property becomes a serious social issue for some communities.