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What are the Penalties for Vandalizing a Mosque or Other House of Worship in Orange County, California?
In December 2015, a 20-year-old man was arrested and is facing criminal charges for vandalizing the parking lot of a Sikh temple in Buena Park, California. Such acts against houses of worship, especially mosques, has been on the uptick over the past year.
Whether it is a mosque, church, synagogue, or any other house of worship, vandalism against such facilities in Orange County, California is treated as a serious offense by prosecutors. The penalties upon conviction can be severe.
California Penal Code Section 594.3 specifically addresses vandalism against houses of worship. This provision of the Penal Code is a “wobbler,” meaning a violation of this section can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Section 594.3(a) makes it a crime for an individual to “knowingly commit any act of vandalism to a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, building owned and occupied by a religious educational institution, or other place primarily used as a place of worship where religious services are regularly conducted or a cemetery…”
If a violation of this section is charged as a misdemeanor, upon conviction the penalties can include:
up to one year in the Orange County Jail,
a fine of up to $1,000, and
probation which can involve the following conditions:
a California driver’s license suspension of up to two years (or, if you don’t yet have a driver’s license, a 1 to 3-year delay in your eligibility to obtain a driver’s license),
community service (which may include personally cleaning, repairing, or replacing the damaged property), and/or
being tasked with keeping the damaged property or another property in the community “graffiti-free” for up to one year.
If a violation of this section 594.3(a) is charged as a felony, conviction can result in a sentence of:
incarceration for sixteen 16 months, two (2) years or three (3) years,
a maximum fine of $10,000, and/or
the probation conditions listed above
If your act of vandalism is categorized as a “hate crime” — that is, an act committed for the purpose of intimidating or scaring a victim based on the victim’s religious beliefs –then you face an automatic felony sentence pursuant to Penal Code Section 594.3(b).
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.