The state of California defines vandalism as the destruction, defacement, or damage caused to another person's property. Vandalism crimes are commonly prosecuted as misdemeanor offenses. However, a vandalism conviction may be accompanied by devastating, long-term consequences, such as jail time, expensive fines, and in some cases, a permanent criminal record.
If you are facing vandalism charges in Santa Barbara, seek legal counsel from a skilled vandalism defense lawyer. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a lawyer may develop a strong legal defense to ensure your rights and future are protected. Outlined below is some important information to know about vandalism offenses, their associated penalties, and potential legal defenses.
Santa Barbara Vandalism Laws
While there are a number of actions that fall under the umbrella of vandalism, some of the most common vandalism crimes in Santa Barbara include:
- Slashing someone's tires
- “Keying” someone's car in efforts to destroy the paint of the vehicle
- Using graffiti to deface or damage public or private property
- Throwing eggs at someone's house
- Breaking a building's windows
- Carving your initials into public sidewalks or benches
The penalties you may face from a vandalism crime vary in accordance with the severity of the crime and the value of the property involved.
The Potential Penalties of Vandalism Convictions
Like most crimes, the penalties associated with a vandalism conviction depend on the specific circumstances surrounding the crime. While most vandalism crimes are charged as misdemeanors, if you have a criminal history or the crime was gang-related, you may face more serious charges, which may lead to more severe penalties. Some of the potential penalties of a vandalism conviction are outlined below.
- If the damaged property is valued at less than $400, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. If convicted, you may face up to a one-year sentence in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
- Under California law, if the damaged property is valued at more than $400, vandalism is classified as a wobbler. This means that the crime may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the crime. If you are convicted of a felony, you may face up to three years in California State Prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- If the vandalism involved elements that could be categorized as a hate crime, it could be charged as a felony even if the damages are under $400. If you are convicted of vandalism felony involving elements of hate, you may face felony vandalism penalties along with additional consequences.
- If the vandalism crime was gang-related, you may face felony charges. If convicted, you may face up to four years in California State Prison along with a “strike” under California's Three Strikes Law.
These are a few of the potential penalties you may face if convicted with felony or misdemeanor vandalism in California. Along with the penalties outlined above, you may face additional consequences, such as probation, community service, and restitution. If you have been charged with a vandalism misdemeanor or felony, the best way to ensure you receive a favorable outcome is to consult a skilled vandalism defense lawyer.
The Potential Defenses to Vandalism Charges
Like most crimes, there are certain elements that constitute vandalism that the prosecution must prove were present in your case. To garner a conviction of vandalism, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally caused physical damage to property that was not yours.
Your defense lawyer may be able to find cracks in the elements of your case to develop a strong defense. For example, if you were painting your home and accidentally spilled paint on your neighbor's driveway—since the damage was not intentional—you did not vandalize their property. Some of the most common defenses to vandalism charges may include:
- Owner consent. If the owner provided consent for the defendant to damage or destroy their property, then the damage is not considered vandalism. For example, if your landlord gave you consent to destroy your cabinets with the intention to have them replaced, they may not accuse you of vandalism.
- The property damaged is owned by the defendant. A key element of vandalism is the damage to another person's property. Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer may be able to assert that you were the owner of the property in question and therefore did not commit a vandalism crime.
- Lack of intention. California law defines vandalism as the intentional and malicious act of destroying or damaging another person's property. Your lawyer may try to assert that the property damage in question was an accident.
These are just a few defenses a criminal defense lawyer might use to defend your case.
Consult a Skilled Santa Barbara Vandalism Lawyer
If you are facing vandalism charges in Santa Barbara, the Aron Law Firm is here to help. Mr. Aron and his team provide clients facing vandalism charges with a comprehensive analysis of their case and work tirelessly to obtain an optimal outcome. By limiting our client roster and the associated caseload, we are able to give more time and attention to each and every case. Our approach prioritizes getting our clients to a better place and understanding their needs at a deep level.
To schedule an appointment with an experienced vandalism defense lawyer, call today at (805) 618-1768 or fill out our online contact form.