Vandalism (Penal Code section 594)

We usually think of vandalism as a juvenile crime. Did you “paper” or egg your neighbor’s house when you were a kid? Yep, that’s vandalism. Did you ever write your name in wet cement? That’s vandalism too. It’s true that many acts of vandalism— especially graffiti, which is a specific act of vandalism under the California vandalism statute—are committed by young people. But the crime of vandalism under Penal Code section 594 includes acts of not only defacing property but also acts of damaging or destroying real or personal property. The association of vandalism as a young person’s crime leaves many people with the impression that it is no big deal—that would be in error. Orange County vandalism defense attorney William Weinberg warns that under certain conditions a vandalism charge could even send an offender to state prison!

For example, say you are angry that your neighbor is erecting a fence that blocks your heretofore enjoyable view. You and your neighbor get into an argument about the fence and you impulsively kick a newly erected portion of the fence, causing it to topple over. Your neighbor decides to call the police over this incident, and you find yourself arrested for vandalism. If the prosecution decides to charge you for this act, you will be charged with misdemeanor vandalism if the damage you caused was under $400. Unfortunately for you, this is an expensive fence and your neighbor must pay $900 to repair it. Because the damage is over $400, the prosecution chooses to charge you with felony vandalism, which carries a punishment of up to three years in state prison. Now it’s unlikely that you would actually be sent to prison if convicted, but that is one of the punishments written into the felony vandalism statute. Under certain conditions, it might take the aggressive advocacy of an experienced vandalism defense attorney to keep you out of jail or prison.

In order to prove vandalism, the prosecution must be able to establish that you acted maliciously. This requires a showing that you intended to vandalize and that you did so with the unlawful intent to annoy or injure another. As an example, if you throw a baseball through the window of someone’s house, it may be vandalism if the prosecution can prove you 1) intended to throw the ball through the window and 2) you did so in order to annoy someone who resides there. But if the ball went through the window entirely by accident, and if you can establish that it was an accident, it was not an act of vandalism.

Let’s say you happened to be in an ongoing beef with your neighbor; the beef is so acrimonious that the police were called on the two of you to break it up in the past. One evening while simply playing a game of catch with your son in the street, you unfortunately but accidently threw the ball at a wrong curve and it went straight through your neighbor’s window— yep, that one. The neighbor is convinced you did it on purpose and calls the police. Based on your history with this neighbor and your neighbor’s allegation, the prosecution decides to proceed with a vandalism charge against you. You have a defense: it was an accident! But how do you prove that? You will need an experienced vandalism defense attorney who understands the elements of the crime and the evidence the prosecution must present in order to fight this charge. Orange County attorney William Weinberg has defended many clients against vandalism charges, including cases where the evidence is ambiguous such as in this example.

As you might imagine, vandalism can encompass many different acts, even conduct that occurs during a domestic violence dispute. An angry wife who tears up her husband’s prized autographed photo of a famous sports figure has committed an act of vandalism. The husband, who in turn, throws a vase handed down to his wife by her grandmother, smashing it to pieces. He too committed an act of vandalism.


If convicted as a misdemeanor, vandalism is punishable by one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. If the damage exceeds $400, the prosecution can choose to charge the vandalism as a misdemeanor or a felony (a wobbler). If charged and convicted on felony vandalism, the offender can be sentenced to up to three years in state prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. While simple vandalism, without more, even if the damage exceeds $400 rarely lands the offender in prison for three years, a prior criminal history, particularly if that includes prior convictions for vandalism could result in a prison sentence. In fact, a person who has two prior vandalism convictions for graffiti must be punished by imprisonment for one year in county jail or state prison according to the law.

In addition to the punishments prescribed for the offense of vandalism, those convicted of graffiti may also be ordered by law to clean up or repair the defaced property and be responsible for keeping that property free of graffiti for a year. If the offender is a juvenile, the court may even order the offender’s parent or guardian to also keep the damaged property free of graffiti for up to a year.

Orange County Vandalism Defense Attorney William Weinberg Can Help!

Indeed, a vandalism charge can be more serious than you think. If you or your child has been charged with vandalism, it is important to consult with an experienced vandalism defense attorney—don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a minor charge that you can easily get out of. Orange County attorney William Weinberg has over 30 years’ experience defending those charged with vandalism and other crimes. Contact him for a free consultation regarding your matter. If you decide to hire Mr. Weinberg to defend you, he will work with you to create a fee structure that best suits your financial circumstance.

Call Mr. Weinberg at (949) 474-8008 or reach him by email at

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