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),
- required counseling,
- 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).
Charges for vandalizing an Orange County house of worship is a serious offense that can cost you your freedom and your future. Don't face these charges alone. Give one of our experienced Orange County, California criminal defense attorneys a call today.