Vandalism is the crime of intentionally damaging or destroying property of another. It is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor is where the damage is under $400 and is punishable by a year in jail, restitution, or a fine of $1000. If the damage exceeds $400, the crime is a felony with up to 3 years served in county jail, restitution, or a fine of up to $10,000. The fine can increase to up to $50,000 if the damage exceeds $10,000.
Graffiti is the most often cause for this charge. Graffiti can also be charged as an infraction or misdemeanor under Pen. Code Sec. 640.5-640.8, depending on whether the cost to remove is deemed greater than $250. However charged, Graffiti defacement will likely include cleaning up the graffiti as part of the punishment.
It is also a crime for a minor to buy aerosol paint, and for someone to sell it to them (PC 594.1), which is also a misdemeanor. There is a question, however, as to the legality of this law if there is no posted sign.
As part of the crack-down on graffiti, it is also a crime to posses paint or other graffiti tools with the “intent” to deface property.
The penalty increases depending on where the graffiti is, for example graffiti on a church is a straight felony, not a wobbler.
These charges become much more serious if the graffiti is alleged to be gang-related (Pen. Code Sec. 186.22). This law can be prosecuted on its own, as a wobbler, or as an enhancement. As an enhancement, if the graffiti is for the promotion of a gang (and how could it not be if it is a gang moniker or tag?) then up to 4 years prison may be added to the sentence.
Mr. Sebastian has had success with Gang-related crimes, and vandalism in particular. The STEP Act (PC 186.22) can be fought due to its intricacies and what’s required to be proved.
Links to Information for Anyone Charged with a Crime: