There are few statutes within the California penal code that cover as wide a range of illegal activities as those of malicious mischief. This crime, sometimes referred to as vandalism, is considered quite serious in the State of California, and the repercussions are always severe.
The State of California sets forth the gamut of rules and sentencing procedures for those convicted of malicious mischief, while each individual county is responsible for enforcing the law and applying bail. The penalties related to vandalism are stiff enough that anyone accused of the crime should seek bail and immediate legal counsel.
What Constitutes Vandalism?
The laws regarding vandalism take up several penal codes, running from 594 through 625. Though the law includes several instances of mischief, the overlying definition of the term is maliciously destroying, damaging or defacing another’s personal or real property. This includes property of individuals, the public and the government. The statutes also make it illegal to provide materials commonly used for vandalism to underage citizens without the proper supervision of their guardians.
The malicious mischief laws also make it a crime to own any method of defacement with the intent of defacing property. These instruments include spray paint, glasscutters, markers and glass drill bits, just to name a few. The law goes on further to mention specific instances that constitute mischief including: spray painting objects, tampering with aircraft, maiming objects of archaeological significance and tampering with lighting systems meant to guide waterway vessels. Obviously meant to be all-pervasive, the list goes on and on.
Bailing Out of Jail
Due to the complex and all-inclusive nature of malicious mischief laws, the bail differences between activities mentioned in the statutes vary widely. Each California County has specific preset bail amounts listed in their bail schedule. Defendants can reach out to an experienced and empathetic bail agent at Bail Hotline to arrange their release within hours of arrest, at a fraction of the face preset bail amount.
The particulars of each mischief case will influence whether or not a crime is a felony or misdemeanor. A misdemeanor vandalism charge in Santa Clara County only has a bail amount of one thousand dollars, while a felony charge of the same crime will demand a bail of $10,000. Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties specifically mention vandalizing a church or cemetery, and set those bail amounts at fifty thousand dollars. Other bail amounts relating to mischief run the gamut of everything in between, depending on the circumstance and county in which the crime took place.
Penalties and Consequences
The penalties related to malicious mischief are also wide ranging. Minors who commit small acts of vandalism (such as neighborhood graffiti) can usually face jail time, but they are often released into the custody of their guardians with a fine and community service. This community service often includes cleaning the graffiti they created and keeping a certain area free of graffiti for a specific amount of time.
Other crimes bring more serious penalties. Committing vandalism on a church or cemetery as a hate crime is considered a felony, and is punishable by up to four years in state prison. Even misdemeanors can bring serious consequences, however, and can end with fines over $10,000, depending on the value of property damaged. Most acts of vandalism are considered misdemeanors and are only punishable by up to a year in jail. Mischief that includes damaging transit vehicles with the intent to cause harm, however, will lead to a felony charge and up to four years in prison.
Malicious mischief has become such a huge problem in California that it is mentioned over a span of twenty statutes. If a person is convicted of any of these crimes, the state has the right to take away their freedom for at least a year of their life. This seems excessive to many people, considering the fact the vandalism may have only been markings on a wall. But someone accused of any of these crimes will need a good lawyer to prevent serious fines and jail time, especially if they have a prior conviction.