The experience of having your child arrested for any type of crime is probably one of the most stressful situations in your life. Kids make bad decisions and mistakes. Peer pressure to be a “cool kid” is often enormous.
One of the most common juvenile crimes is vandalism, which is described as intentionally destroying the property of another.
In Los Angeles County, there are several common types of juvenile vandalism cases.
These include graffiti on school buildings or highway overpass and signs, smashing windows on buildings and vehicles, slashing car tires or keying a vehicle, or causing damage to a school or Church property.
However, the most common form of vandalism is graffiti. In fact, vandalism is commonly known as tagging, graffiti, or defacing property. Due to significant rise in graffiti cases, the police and Los Angeles County courts have cracked down on these types of offenses.
Even though graffiti only causes property damage, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony crime based on the amount of damage caused to the property. Any juvenile graffiti charges against your child should be taken seriously as the legal consequences can be severe.
If your child has been charged with vandalism, it's important to consult with a Los Angeles juvenile criminal defense attorney at Eisner Gorin LLP as soon as possible. Our lawyers understand that your child's future may be at stake.
Our law firm will closely examine the details of the case, legal options on fighting the charges, and help you understand the consequences of a conviction. Let's examine the legal definitions of vandalism and the closely related graffiti laws below.
California Penal Code Section 594 – Vandalism
California Penal Code Section 594 legally defines vandalism as maliciously defacing with graffiti or other form of written material, damaging or destroying another person's property. Vandalism can come in many forms.
In order to be convicted of vandalism, the prosecutor must be able to prove ALL the specific elements of the crime. These elements include:
- The defendant maliciously defaced with graffiti or inscribed material, damaged or destroyed property;
- The defendant did not own the property or it was owned by another person;
- The total amount of the damage or destruction was less than $400 for a misdemeanor case, or more than $400 for a felony case.
Defacing with graffiti or other inscribed material means any unauthorized writing or drawing on property using just about any kind of tool. There is no legal requirement the defacement with graffiti is permanent. Vandalism is known as a “wobbler” offense.
This means the case can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony crime, depending on the defendant's criminal history and the total cost to repair the damage. If the cost of repair the is less than $400, the prosecutor will file a misdemeanor vandalism case.
If the cost to repair is over $400, the prosecutor has the option of charging the defendant with either a misdemeanor or felony case. Consult with a Los Angeles juvenile criminal defense lawyer at our law firm for more information.
If convicted of misdemeanor vandalism, the defendant could face up to one year in county jail, and a fine up to $1,000. If convicted of felony vandalism, the legal penalties can include up to three years in a California state prison, and a fine up to $10,000.
On a felony vandalism case where the total damages to property exceed $10,000, the legal penalties can be enhanced.
Furthermore, if the damaged property was owned by a certain organization of religion, race, or other protected group, there could a hate crime special allegation or enhancement, if there is evidence the act targeted the group.
Typically, this would include cases where the defendant defaced their structure with threatening messages or a racial epithet.
Related Vandalism Charges in California
In California, there are a wide variety of criminal offenses that are commonly charged in close connection with a vandalism case or might even be charged instead of vandalism case. In some cases, there are different legal penalties depending on the type of vandalism and type of property that was vandalized.
Charges that are related to vandalism include:
- California Penal Code Section 594.3 - Vandalizing a Place of Worship,
- California Penal Code Section 594.4 - Vandalism Involving Caustic Chemicals,
- California Penal Code Section 594.6 - Possession of Graffiti Tools,
- California Penal Code Section 640.7 and 640.8 - Vandalizing on or Near a Highway,
- California Penal Code Section 186.22 - Criminal Street Gang Enhancement,
- California Penal Code Section 459 - Burglary,
- California Penal Code Section 602 - Trespassing,
- California Vehicle Code 10852 - Tampering with a Vehicle.
Legal Defenses Against Vandalism Charges
An experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney can utilize a wide variety of common legal defenses against vandalism charges. These include:
- Mistaken Identity – The defendant could be accused of vandalism based on mistaken identity. There have been cases in Los Angeles County where a defendant matched the physical description of an individual who actually committed vandalism. It may also be possible the defendant was with other people who vandalized property, but did not personally take part in the act.
- False Accusation – There are cases where an innocent person becomes a victim of a false allegation and wrongful arrest. There are a wide variety of reasons where individuals will make a false allegation against another person. It may be to cover up their own actions, especially in graffiti cases where a group of teenagers were involved.
The Los Angeles County juvenile court system does recognize that juveniles frequently made bad decisions and generally deserve different treatment than an adult. In juvenile cases, the emphasis is on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
Unlike adult court, in which cases are adjudicated through the formal criminal process after the filing of criminal charges, juvenile cases provide another avenue for resolution before court: informal supervision through the probation department.
Our Los Angeles juvenile defense attorneys believe in an immediate pre-filing intervention, where we will work aggressively to dissuade the police and prosecutor's office from filing formal charges in juvenile court.
If charges have been filed and your child is detained by police, our law firm will work aggressively at the arraignment to ensure the release of the child at a Juvenile Detention Hearing.
Call a Los Angeles Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer
In Los Angeles County, there are important distinctions between juvenile court procedures and adult criminal procedures. For example, there is no right to bail, and a minor charged in a juvenile court is not heard by a jury, but rather a judge decides the case.
For these reasons, it is important that you seek legal assistance from an experienced Los Angeles juvenile criminal defense attorney at Eisner Gorin LLP. Contact our law firm to review the details at 877-781-1570.