Vandalism and Other “Wobbler” Criminal Cases in California
A series of tire slashing incidents has Lexington Park police searching for the culprits, but there is hope that the offenders will be brought to justice and face criminal charges in California. Law enforcement received a total of 11 calls involving destruction of property in St. Mary’s County over September 17-19, 2016. If apprehended, the perpetrators will likely be charged with vandalism, a crime that may be treated a felony or misdemeanor under state law. If you’re facing vandalism or other “wobbler” criminal charges in California, some general information should help you understand these cases.
Vandalism in California: The Prosecutor’s Case Against You
A crime is considered vandalism in California if you damage or destroy property you do not own, with malicious intent to do so. Therefore, a prosecuting attorney must prove that:
1. You maliciously damaged, defaced, or destroyed property,
2. You did not own the property, shared ownership with another person, or the property was public; AND,
3. Financial damage resulted from your actions.
Keep in mind that defacing an item with an inscription or drawing – i.e., graffiti – is considered vandalism if you do not have the permission of the property owner.
Vandalism is a “Wobbler”: Felony v. Misdemeanor
There are a number of crimes in California that may fall under misdemeanor or felony. The determination may depend on the circumstances of the crime, though your past criminal history can also be a factor in how your case it treated. Vandalism is considered one of these “wobbler” cases, and the offense is directly related to the monetary value of the damage you caused to the property.
· If your actions resulted in $400 or less to the property, vandalism will be treated as a misdemeanor;
· Vandalism that causes more than $400 in damage may be charged as a felony.
Note that it is within the prosecutor’s discretion on whether to charge you with a felony when there is more than $400 in damage. A past criminal history or extremely egregious circumstances may convince the prosecuting attorney to pursue felony charges.
Defenses Available to Fight a Wobbler in San Diego
Any facts that contradict the factors the prosecutor needs to prove can be used as a defense to vandalism. If you lacked malicious intent, you cannot be convicted. For instance, if you were involved in an accident that damaged a fence, you won’t be charged with vandalism (though you may need to pay for the property).
Other defenses to vandalism include proof that you own the property yourself, not with another person. Also, if the proper owner consented to your actions, you cannot be convicted of the crime.
When you’re charged with vandalism or another wobbler crime in California, there is a serious amount of uncertainty on how the case will be treated in court. The risk of the case being tried as a felony is high if you don’t have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. A lawyer has the legal background to argue for lesser charges and present any defenses in your case. If you’ve been charged with vandalism, please contact a qualified criminal attorney in San Diego to discuss your matter in more detail.
Ozols Law Firm
8880 Rio San Diego Dr. #22
San Diego, CA,