Vandalism and Arson are two classes of criminal damage to property crimes. Damaging property may not seem like a very serious offense and for the most part property crimes are punished less severely than crimes committed against people in California.
But any criminal conviction, even a misdemeanor offense, with small fines, and minimal probation, leaves you with a permanent criminal record that can follow you for life.
And many vandalism and arson offenses are much more serious than that. If the property crime puts people at risk of being injured or if the property damaged has a high value, then the seriousness of the offense is multiplied.
If you are charged with vandalism, or any criminal offense in California, please contact us as soon as possible, and take advantage of our free case evaluation and legal consultation. There’s no obligation!
Vandalism Laws & Penalties
Vandalism occurs when one of the following is done to property that is not your own:
- Defacing with graffiti
Vandalism is an offense whose severity is based on the amount (value) of damage done.
|If the value of the damage is:
Greater than $400 (can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony)
Less than $400 (misdemeanor)
|The potential sentence is:
Your sentence can be increased if this is not your first vandalism conviction. Also, if you are charged with vandalism by graffiti, the court may order you to clean or paint over your graffiti as part of your sentence.
Ref: CA Vandalism Laws – California Penal Code Section 594
California Arson Laws & Penalties
The state of California defines arson as willfully and maliciously setting fire, burning, or causing to burn any structure, land, or property. The sentence you may face for arson depends on what the result was.
If the arson:
- Causes an inhabited property to burn, you will face 3-8 years in prison
- Causes great bodily injury to someone, you will face 5-9 years
- Is committed on a structure or forest land you will face 2-6 years
- Is committed on uninhabited property you will face 16 months-3 years
Certain occurrences in the arson can add a sentence “enhancement”, or increase the amount of time you may serve. Multiple burn victims, multiple structures, or injury to an emergency official all add a potential 4 years onto the original sentence.
Ref: CA Arson Laws- California Penal Code Section 451
Wildfires are no joke, and recklessly starting a fire that spreads in the dry California desert can do millions of dollars worth of damage in no time.
In 2010, two men plead guilty to recklessly starting a fire causing injury, and causing an inhabited structure to burn in the case known as the Corral Canyon Fire of 2007.
The charges they plead guilty to were recklessly starting a fire causing injury and causing an inhabited structure to burn. The men, ages 25 and 26, were with a group of friends that night partying in a cave in the Malibu hills. The fire was started and quickly grew out of control, partially due to the 60 mph. winds, dry conditions, and the defendants fueling it with pillowcases and wood.
In addition to their jail time, the men will be required to perform 500 hours of community service, pay restitution, and write letters of apology to all of the people who lost their homes. According to the LA Times, the men will pay a minimum $7.7 million for the firefighting costs alone.
Mistakes happen in property damage cases, so having an aggressive and sympathetic legal defense strategy is critical.