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We all know the word vandalism and we sometimes use it to describe things we do not agree with. However, the law recognizes vandalism as a crime and as a legal term, it has to have a clear definition.
So, what is vandalism and is it classified as a misdemeanor or is it a felony? In any case, if you’re accused of vandalism, you’d best find a good lawyer, like https://www.monderlaw.com/pratice-areas/domestic-violence/vandalism.
The Definition of Vandalism
Vandalism is an act of willful destruction or damage of property to the degree that it defaces or otherwise decreases the values of the said property. Some of the most common crimes classified as vandalism include graffiti, tire slashing, breaking windows and similar deeds.
A more serious version of vandalism is damage or destruction of property, which falls under a category of its own. It is tricky to discern the lines between these crimes because states each have their own interpretation, so what may be vandalism in one state can be classified as the destruction of property in another.
In order for a crime to be classified as vandalism, there are three marks which need to be checked. In order to be convicted, the prosecutor needs to prove that your deed contains all three elements.
Damage done – first of all, there needs to exist some visible damage to the object in question. The damage needs to be permanent, but not so severe to constitute destruction of property. Be careful with this definition, because graffiti and sticking a sticker to something counts as damage, too.
It belongs to someone else – if you damage your own property, that falls within your rights. However, if the property you have damaged is someone else’s, including the state or federal government, this qualifies the deed as vandalism.
It was intentional – finally, the prosecutor needs to prove that you did that on purpose. It is difficult to defend against an accusation of graffiti claiming it was accidental, but you can break a window by accident.
A Misdemeanor or a Felony?
Even though most people think that vandalism is a minor crime, depending on the circumstances, this charge can be quite serious. Thanks to the penal code 594 PC of California, the district attorney has the power to classify your case as a felony or as a misdemeanor, on the case-to-case basis.
Punishment for Misdemeanor
If your case is classified as a misdemeanor offense, you may think you are in the clear. However, even in this better case scenario, you are still facing up to one year in the county jail. The better alternative is a fine. If this is your first vandalism charge, you can be fined up to $1000, whereas repeat vandals can be fined up to $5000.
If you are really unlucky, you can get both of these punishments at the same time. However, there is another option, which is community service. Typically, it comes in the graffiti charge, where the guilty party is ordered to clean what they have defaced, as well as keep that surface or any other clean for up to a year.
Punishment for a Felony
If your crime is serious enough to be classified as a felony, you may be sentenced to up to one year in jail, or in a state prison. The fine option also exists and it can go up to $10,000 or even up to $50,000 if the damage you have caused is more than $10,000. Just like with the misdemeanor, you may get both forms of punishment at the same time.
Even though you may feel like a vandalism charge is not a big deal and that it can be brushed off lightly, hopefully, this article shone some light on the possible repercussions of criminal activities.
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