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Is “Tagging” in Riverside County Vandalism or Graffiti?
The answer to the question in the title is “yes.” If you are arrested for “tagging” a building, home, or other structure or property in Riverside County, you can be charged with either the crime of vandalism or the separate criminal offense of graffiti.
Tagging is a form of vandalism as that term is used in California’s vandalism statute, Penal Code Section 594. You are guilty of vandalism under that section of the code if you commit any of the following acts on property not your own:
Defacing the property with graffiti or other inscribed material
Damaging the property
Destroying the property
Tagging is obviously graffiti as defined in Section 594, as it is an “unauthorized inscription, word, figure, mark, or design that is written, marked, etched, scratched, drawn or painted on” on someone else’s property real or personal property.
If the damage caused by the tagging is four hundred dollars ($400) or more, you could be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor. If treated as a felony, upon conviction you could face up to a year in Riverside County jail and a fine of up to $10,000. However, if the damage is greater than $10,000, those fines could go up to $50,000.
If tagging is charged as a misdemeanor, as it is for damage less than $400, it is punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or up to $1,000 fines.
But Section 594 is not the only law you can be charged with violating if you tag someone else’s property in Riverside County. California Penal Code Sections 640.5 and 640.6 specifically address graffiti and tagging that causes less than $250 in damage. At the prosecutor’s discretion, he or she may charge you with a violation of these provisions rather than Section 594 or charge you with both.
If you are charged under Penal Code 640.5 or 640.6 PC, the potential penalty depends on whether this is your first, second, or third (or subsequent) California graffiti or vandalism conviction. The penalty for a first-time tagging conviction under these sections of the code is less than for a violation of Section 594, with community service instead of jail time, though a fine of up to $1,000 may be imposed as well.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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