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Oakland Vandalism Lawyer

There are certain pranks or rites of passage we take for granted. As a teenager, you and your friends might not think twice about egging a rival’s house. In your anger, you might take a key to your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend’s car or a knife to their tires. All of these acts are illegal despite how common they are. If you damage or deface another person, business, or city’s property, you could find yourself charged with the property crime of vandalism – often referred to as criminal or malicious mischief. In this situation, you need to call a vandalism lawyer at Silver Law Firm.

Attorney Elliot Silver will review your case and determine the best defensive approach. Contact him online or call (510) 995-0000E to schedule a free consultation.

California Vandalism Law

Under California Penal Code (CPC) 594, you can be charged with vandalism if you maliciously damage, deface with graffiti, or destroy someone else’s real or personal property.

Real property encompasses immovable property, such as land and structures. Personal property covers moveable property, including vehicles and signs. The property can be an occupied or vacant home, a used or vacant commercial property, fences, barriers, park equipment, cars, construction equipment, or any other property that another individual, business, or municipality owns. To be convicted of this offense, it must not be your own property.

Vandalism, also referred to as malicious mischief, includes damaging or destroying property, though one of the most common scenarios is defacing the property. To deface something is to ruin or negatively alter its appearance. Defacement could also occur because of stickers or unlawful posters. It could also be another type of inscription, such as a carving in wood or cement.

Prosecutors must prove you acted maliciously in order to be convicted of a vandalism offense. You must have acted with the intention to annoy, injure, or wrong another person. Prosecutors must show that you had ill-intent when you damaged, defaced, or destroyed something.

Examples of vandalism include:

  • Keying someone’s car.
  • Egging someone’s house.
  • Putting your hand prints in wet cement.
  • Tagging your name in spray paint on a train car.
  • Hitting a mailbox with a bat.

Statutory Penalties for Vandalism

The punishment you face for a vandalism conviction depends on the value of the damage you caused or the value of the property you destroyed.

  • Less than $400 – A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, fines reaching $1,000.
  • Less than $400, second offense – A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, and a fine up to $5,000.
  • More than $400 – A wobbler. If convicted of a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in jail, and fines reaching $10,000. If convicted of a felony, you can be punished with up to three years in county jail and fines reaching $10,000.
  • More than $10,000 – A wobbler punishable by up to three years in jail and fines up to $50,000.

In addition to the statutory penalties for a vandalism offense, a judge can order you to clean up defaced property and keep it clean for up to one year. You might have to remove paint from a surface or paint it a solid, neutral color. If cleanup is not possible or is inappropriate for the circumstances, then the court can order some other type of community service. A judge can also require you to go undergo counseling.

Collateral Consequences

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony vandalism offense, then you will experience a number of hurdles in addition to incarceration, probation, fines, community service, or the cleanup. Following conviction for a vandalism offense, you can also find yourself facing:

  • Difficulty going to school, obtaining a professional license, getting a job, and renting an apartment.
  • Immigration issues, such as a denial or revocation of a visa or permanent residency or ineligibility for citizenship.
  • If convicted of a felony, you lose the right to own or possess any firearms.
  • A reduction or loss of child custody or visitation.
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to two years (or up to a three-year delay in your eligibility to obtain a license if you don’t yet have one)

It is important to note that if you do get your driver’s license suspended due to a vandalism conviction, it can be paid down with community service hours. Pursuant to California law, you can reduce the time of suspension or delay of obtaining your license by one day for every hour of community service you perform.

If you’re facing a suspension or delay in obtaining your license and want to shorten that time, speak to your vandalism lawyer right away.

Defenses to Vandalism Charges

If you have been charged with vandalism, your lawyer can defend you by arguing:

  • You did not act maliciously.
  • The damage was caused by your negligence.
  • The damage was caused by accident.
  • You owned the property in question.
  • You had consent.
  • You have been falsely accused.
  • There has been a mistake of identity.
  • There is insufficient evidence.

Before you implement a trial defense strategy, however, your lawyer can argue to have the charges dropped or reduced by the prosecutor or dismissed by the judge. There might be grounds for an acquittal if it is clear the prosecution lacks enough evidence to demonstrate you committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Pursuant to CPC 1118.1, a motion for a judgement of acquittal can only be granted if there is a lack of substantial evidence in one or more of the elements of the vandalism offense you’re being accused of. This motion can only be made at the end of the prosecution’s case-in-chief, which is the portion of the trial in which the burden of proof presents its evidence.

If a judge allows the charges to move forward, then your attorney can discuss negotiating a plea bargain. This entails pleading guilty for an agreed upon sentence. If you are young and this is a first offense, a prosecutor can agree to let you avoid jail time and complete community service and restitution.

Call a Vandalism Attorney Today

No matter your age or the facts of your case, if you are accused of vandalism, then you need a lawyer to defend you. Attorney Elliot Silver has experience defending clients against vandalism charges. He has the knowledge, skills, and resources you need to aggressively defend you in court and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

Call Silver Law Firm at (510) 995-0000, or use the online form to schedule a risk-free consultation.