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Vandalism charges in San Diego? Vandalism and Domestic Violence. How to examine and beat a PC594 charge. San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer Attorney explains.

On Behalf of | Sep 18, 2017 | Firm News |

My wife has been looking to upgrade her phone for some time. We earmarked the next iPhone to purchase. The news recently came out that said the iPhone could be $1000.00.

I immediately went to the thought of how a client can get a felony for breaking a phone. I have had multiple cases where the phone is the sole item that was damaged. Whether someone slapped it out of someone’s hand or threw it in anger. With the prices on these devices going up, so will the issues.

Most prosecution offices have separate criteria on what makes a vandalism a felony. They know they can issue a felony at $400.00, but with the dollar amount and the situation may charge less. A threshold number many agencies use is $1000.00 (depending on the situation), which is why when the dollar amount is near or over that amount the seriousness of the case increases.

I want to go into a little more about what is vandalism here in San Diego. Call the Law Office of Mark Deniz now for a free consultation at 858-751-4384.


Penal Code 594 PC, California’s vandalism prohibits maliciously doing any of the following things to someone else’s property:

• Defacing it with graffiti or other written material,

• Damaging it, or

• Destroying it.

When most people hear the term “vandalism,” they may think of neighborhood kids who are smashing peoples’ mailboxes.

But in fact the California crime of vandalism includes a number of activities that you might not immediately think of. Some examples are:

• During a fight with your husband, breaking picture frames and items around the house.

• “Keying” the car of someone you know as an act of revenge; and

• Slapping the phone from someone’s hand who you are mad at.

And, in fact, vandalism charges are serious business in California. A vandalism conviction can result in penalties that include jail time and very large fines.

What is Vandalism here in San Diego?

The legal definition of vandalism in California revolves around three facts (known as the “elements of the crime”). The prosecutor is required to prove all three facts in order to convict you of vandalism under Penal Code 594 PC.

The elements of the crime of California vandalism are:

1 that you maliciously “defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material,” damaged, or destroyed property,

2 that you did not own the property or owned it with someone else, and

3 that the amount of the defacement, damage, or destruction was either

a. less than $400 in a misdemeanor prosecution, or

b. $400 or more in a felony prosecution.

Legal defenses

But don’t despair — an experienced California vandalism defense attorney may be able to help you get Penal Code 594 PC vandalism charges reduced or dismissed. There are several legal defenses that could be helpful with this, including:

• You damaged someone else’s property by accident;

• You were falsely accused; and / or

• You were the victim of mistaken identity.

Call the Law Office of Mark Deniz now for a free consultation at 858-751-4384.

Taking a closer look

Let’s take a closer look at some of these terms to gain a better understanding of the legal definition of vandalism in California.


Acting “maliciously” means that you either

1 intentionally do a wrongful act, or

2 act with the unlawful intent to annoy or injure someone else.

The amount of damage

If the cost to repair or replace the defaced, damaged, or destroyed item is less than four hundred dollars ($400), prosecutors can only charge you with misdemeanor vandalism.

If the cost is four hundred dollars ($400) or more, then vandalism becomes a wobbler in California law–which means that prosecutors have the option of charging you with either a felony or a misdemeanor.

Also, if you are accused of one or more acts of vandalism that the prosecution can prove were part of the “same intention, impulse and plan,” then all the acts will be added together. If the total value of the damage is $400 or more, then the prosecutor may charge you with felony vandalism.

For example: Alyssa is mad at her fiancé Mike. In order to get even for his slights she breaks his $300.00 computer monitor, and four games worth $200.00.

So each act of vandalism is worth less than $400 — but added together they are worth $500.

Given these facts, prosecutors could charge Alyssa with felony vandalism instead of two acts of misdemeanor vandalism.

But keep in mind that just because the prosecutor charges you with felony vandalism doesn’t mean that you will be convicted of felony vandalism. If, for example, the jury in a felony vandalism trial decides that you committed vandalism — but is not convinced that the damage adds up to $400 or more — they could convict you of misdemeanor vandalism instead.

Expunging your San Diego vandalism conviction

If you already have a vandalism conviction, you may expunge your San Diego Vandalism charge once you successfully complete probation.

Our firm can run an examination to determine if you are a viable candidate to terminate probation early and get off probation.

If you were convicted of a felony vandalism, you want to try to get the case reduced to a misdemeanor before expungement. Our firm is dedicated in helping people with these situations.

Call the Law Office of Mark Deniz now for a free consultation at 858-751-4384.

Domestic Violence laws and Vandalism

As we d
iscussed above, the crime of vandalism occurs when someone maliciously damages property that they own jointly with someone else. This scenario is most likely to occur in connection with domestic disputes — when one spouse or partner, during a fight with the other, damages property they both own.

This means that vandalism charges are sometimes brought in connection with San Diego Domestic Violence (DV) charges.

The most common domestic violence offense is PC 273.5 (corporal injury/domestic violence on a spouse). This occurs when someone willfully inflicts a bodily injury on their spouse — and the injury results in a “traumatic condition” like a visible wound.


I remember when I was a young prosecutor back in 2004 thinking how $400.00 was not a big threshold to get to. It is even more so now in 2017. It is essential to be more careful and to get the right defense when/if you are charged. Call the Law Office of Mark Deniz now for a free consultation at 858-751-4384.

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