In California, a person may be charged with vandalism for doing any number of different things. A vandalism charge may arise when a person breaks windows, damages another person's car or graffitis the side of a building. Vandalism is when a person does anything that destroys or defaces another person's property without that person's permission.
Whether the person is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor will be determined by the extent of the damage and how much it costs to repair. The potential penalties for vandalism charges also vary and may include fines, jail or prison time, community service, restitution and orders to repair the damage.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, vandalism may be charged along with a more serious offense, such as burglary or another similar offense. The idea behind vandalism laws is to prevent the destruction of other people's property while out in public. Common defenses used against vandalism charges include circumstances that may lessen the culpability. This might include such things as the person damaged the property by accident, they were expressing themselves through art or something similar.
People who are charged with vandalism may be charged even if they were not directly caught at the time. Sometimes people are charged based on surveillance video or witness descriptions. If a person is charged, they may want to get help from a criminal defense attorney. An attorney may be able to review the evidence against their client to determine what defenses are available. They may file motions challenging the identification of their client if it appears the identification procedure was done incorrectly. They may also gather evidence that is mitigating in order to try to get the charges reduced. In some cases, an attorney may be able to negotiate an agreement for their client to repair the damage in exchange for a dismissal of charges, especially if it is their first offense.