As high school seniors across San Diego County approach graduation, some of them may be thinking about the time-honored tradition of pulling a “senior prank.” But if that prank includes damage to property, it can also constitute vandalism - a criminal offense in California that can come with serious consequences.
Vandalism is a crime in San Diego County and throughout California. It is defined in California Penal Code Section 594 as maliciously damaging, destroying, or defacing with graffiti on someone else's property.
The damage caused doesn't have to be permanent to constitute vandalism under California law. Just because rotten eggs or rolls of toilet paper can ultimately be cleaned up as if nothing ever happened doesn't mean that you can't be charged with a crime. (just ask Justin Bieber).
Vandalism can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the amount of damage caused and whether it is a first or subsequent offense.
- Damage less than $400: a misdemeanor that can carry the following potential consequences:
- up to one (1) year in a county jail,
- a maximum fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000) -- OR up to $5,000 if you have a prior vandalism conviction, and/or
- informal (otherwise known as "summary") probation which may include a driver's license suspension, counseling, and community service (which could mean cleaning or repairing the damage caused)
- Damage of $400 or more: this can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony (making it a “wobbler”). Penalties for a felony vandalism conviction could include:
- either probation with up to one year in county jail, or a jail sentence of sixteen 16 months, two years or three years,
- a maximum fine of $10,000.or up to $50,000 if the amount of the damage was $10,000 or more, and/or
- the same probation conditions as for misdemeanor vandalism convictions
- Specific types of vandalism. In addition to Penal Code Sec. 594, California law includes specific prohibitions and penalties for other types of vandalism, including vandalism to places of worship (Penal Code Sec. 594.3), cemeteries (Sec. 594.35), and highways or freeways (Secs. 640.7 and 640.8) as well as vandalism involving dangerous chemicals such as acid (Sec. 594.4).
If a senior prank involving an act of vandalism was committed by a juvenile, their parents may also be subject to penalties including having to contribute to any fines or restitution as well as participate in any ordered community service.
If you or your child has been charged with a San Diego County vandalism offense, please call one of our experienced San Diego County criminal defense lawyers today to discuss your situation.