California Penal Code § 4600 PC makes it a crime to deliberately vandalize jail or prison property. If the damage amounts to $950 or less, the state will bring misdemeanor charges carrying up to six months in jail and/or $1,000. Otherwise, damaging prison or jail property is a felony carrying 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in prison and up to $10,000. Plus, the judge can impose restitution payments.
The text of the law is:
PC 4600. Punishment for damaging jail or prison
(a) Every person who willfully and intentionally breaks down, pulls down, or otherwise destroys or injures any jail, prison, or any public property in any jail or prison, is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), and by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, except that where the damage or injury to any city, city and county, or county jail property or prison property is determined to be nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or less, that person is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) In any case in which a person is convicted of violating this section, the court may order the defendant to make restitution to the public entity that owns the property damaged by the defendant. The court shall specify in the order that the public entity that owns the property damaged by the defendant shall not enforce the order until the defendant satisfies all outstanding fines, penalties, assessments, restitution fines, and restitution orders.
California Penal Code 4600 PC prohibits causing physical damage to any:
- prison, or
- public property in any jail or prison.
If the cost to fix the damage is no more than $950, then violating this statute is a misdemeanor carrying up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines, plus restitution to fix the damage. Though if the damage amounts to more than $950, violating this statute is a felony carrying:
- 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in prison, and
- up to $10,000 in fines, plus
- restitution to fix the damage.1
Example: A California prison guard turns Henry away during visiting hours because he is not dressed appropriately. Angry, Henry punches a wall in the waiting area, causing more than $1,000 worth of damage in parts and labor. Here, Henry could be convicted of a felony for intentionally damaging prison property.
A potential defense to PC 4600 charges is that you were not acting willfully. So if you damaged the property by accident or if you were in the throes of a seizure, then criminal charges should not stand.
- California Penal Code 4600 PC – Punishment for damaging jail or prison. See also People v. Upchurch (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1978), 76 Cal. App. 3d 721; People v. Pettersen (Cal. App. 4th Dist. 1968), 268 Cal. App. 2d 263.