Vandalism is defined as the intentional and malicious destruction of or damage to the property of another. Vandalism is governed by state statutes, which vary according to state. In most cases, statutes provide for penalties based upon the value of the property damage.
Vandalism takes on many forms – it can include slashing someone’s tires, spray painting on the side of commercial trucks or buses, as well as spraying graffiti on the walls or signs on a freeway. It can include smashing mail boxes, breaking somebody’s car windows or throwing blocks through the windows of someone’s residence.
The damage can be to both public and personal property. In many cases, vandalism is committed by minors, who are working in groups of two or more. In fact, vandalism is a common form of juvenile crime, with the peak period for committing property crimes ranging between the ages of 15 and 21. In the United States, adolescent vandalism, including destruction of school property, costs millions of dollars in damages each year.
Aside from adolescent vandalism, vandalism can also be a way for an adult to vent one’s anger. It is not uncommon for a jilted lover or angry ex-spouse to intentionally destroy property out of bitterness, jealousy or rage. In these types of cases, the vandalism is usually directed towards a target, as opposed to being a random act. A bitter ex-spouse might burn their spouse’s clothes, break their golf clubs or bash their car windows in.
Vandalism is also a frequent gang-related crime. A significant amount of graffiti is the product of gangs, claiming their supposed “territory" and warning other gangs to stay away. Gang-related graffiti can be seen painted across signs, buildings, freeways, buses and other walls.
Due to the fact that vandalism costs our government and essentially our taxpayers a billion dollars each year, modern statutes criminalize intentional acts to destroy public and private property. The penalties for a conviction can include jail or prison sentencing, fines, restitution, community service and probation or parole.
In the majority of cases, a first time vandalism charge will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor if the damage was valued below $400, however, penalties increase with each subsequent conviction. If the damage was valued above $400, it can be prosecuted as a felony offense. Either way, you will carry the burden of a criminal record – which will inhibit future employment and housing pursuits, in addition to impeding your ability to get a financial or educational loan. If you have been arrested for vandalism, no matter how minor the damage might seem – it is essential that you retain the services of an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney.