Vandalism, also known as malicious mischief, is the act of intentionally damaging or destroying the property of another person, without their permission. In California, vandalism is a crime that is punishable by fines, imprisonment, and restitution to the victim for the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged property.

Under California Penal Code section 594, vandalism is defined as any of the following acts:

  • Defacing with graffiti or other inscribed material
  • Damaging, destroying, or removing any real or personal property belonging to someone else
  • Tampering with the property of another, so as to endanger person or property

Vandalism can take many forms, including graffiti, keying (scratching) a car, breaking windows, spray-painting buildings or vehicles, or cutting or damaging trees or other public property. The severity of the crime depends on the value of the damaged property and the extent of the damage.

Vandalism is generally charged as a misdemeanor in California, unless the damage to the property is valued at more than $400, in which case it can be charged as a “wobbler” offense, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. If charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If charged as a felony, the maximum penalty is up to 3 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

In addition to fines and imprisonment, a defendant convicted of vandalism may be ordered to pay restitution to the victim for the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged property. Restitution is a payment made by the defendant to compensate the victim for their losses. The court may order restitution as part of the sentence, or as a condition of probation. If the defendant fails to pay restitution as ordered, they may be in violation of their probation and subject to additional consequences, such as fines, jail time, or extension of their probationary period.

Vandalism is a serious crime in California, and can have long-lasting effects on the victim and the community. It is important for individuals to respect the property of others and refrain from engaging in vandalism or other destructive behavior. If charged with vandalism, it is advisable to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney, who can help defend against the charges and minimize the potential consequences.