Vandalism is destroying or damaging the property of another. Types of vandalism include tagging and graffiti. But in California, vandalism is a wobbler. Whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or felony depends on the amount of damages caused and if the defendant has a previous history of vandalism.

How Does the California Penal Code Define Vandalizing Property?

Vandalism is defined as destroying or damaging property of another, or defacing it with inscribed material. Inscribed material include graffiti.

What is Graffiti?

Graffiti is the unauthorized act of etching, scratching, writing, drawing, painting on real or personal property. The act is committed with intent to commit the act or intent to annoy/injure someone else.

What If I Just Scratched My Name of Someone’s Desk, Can I Be Charged with Vandalism in California?

Yes. In California, the law includes a wide variety of act, even scratching a name into another person’s desk.

Why Can Vandalism Be a Misdemeanor or Felony?

The charge can be a felony or misdemeanor due to the financial amount of damage caused. A defendant can also be charged according to their previous criminal record.

What is the Punishment for Misdemeanor Vandalism?

If the property damage is $400 or less and there’s no prior offense, it’s considered a misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 1 year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000 and/or probation. But if there is a prior record for vandalism or graffiti, then the fine can increase up to $5,000.

What is the Punishment for Felony Vandalism?

Vandalism that resulted in of $400 or more in damage can be charged as a felony. The prosecutor will look at the surrounding circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. The defendant may face probation with up to 1 year in jail, or 16 months to 3 years in prison.

Will I Have to Clean Up the Damage?

Often, the court will order the offender to personally repair or clean the property damage as part of the punishment.

Should I Talk to a Lawyer Regarding My Case?

Yes. Talk to a California criminal lawyer immediately about the defenses you can use in your case.