Penal Code 594: Vandalism
Vandalism is against the law and is defined by the destruction of property belonging to another person, with malice. Malice simply means the intent to damage the property to annoy or hurt another person. One example might be if a man and woman break up and the woman shreds the manís clothing before giving it back to him. She has destroyed his property on purpose, with the intent of causing him pain or annoyance.
Vandalism is a common charge, and the accused could face up to three years in prison and fines depending upon how serious the crime. This is often determined by the value of the items that were damaged, and in most places if the value is more than $400, the crime is considered a felony rather than a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor vandalism usually brings a possible prison charge of up to one year. Individuals accused of vandalism should speak to an attorney right away, as there are several possible defenses that could be used.
Possible Defenses for Vandalism
If consent for destruction was given by the owner, the individual charged has not committed a crime, but this must be proven to the court. An example might be if a tenant received permission to tear out the cabinets of the home he was renting in order to have new ones installed, but ended up moving out before the new ones were installed. The landlord may become angry that the new cabinets were not installed and claim vandalism, but if it can be proven that he or she told the tenant to tear out the cabinets, there is no crime.
Another defense includes lack of malice, where the individual did not destruct the property with the intent to hurt or annoy the owner of the belongings. In cases where it was necessity or no damage occurred, the individual can use these facts as defenses as well. For instance, if the destruction of property happened because of a life or death situation, and it can be proven, it is likely that the charges would be dropped. An example might be if during a natural disaster, an individual kicked in the door of a storage unit or vacant home to take shelter. Also, if no damage occurred and there is no value to attach to the destruction, this might be a working defense as well.
Other defenses include self-defense, accidents, ownership of the property or the failure by the police to give Miranda warnings. Often times the police make serious mistakes that can cause the accused to have a rock-solid defense against the crime of vandalism, such as the failure to give Miranda warnings at the time of the arrest. These are often details that the attorney of the accused will learn as he or she begins to gather details of the case.
Individuals who are accused of vandalism should contact one of our vandalism attorneys right away to protect their interests, and to begin planning a defense against the charges.