top of page
Reviewing Legal Agreement

Vandalism Charges in California
- Penal Code §594 -

Expertise Award
Google Review Image
Expertise Award #2

Vandalism Charges – PC 594

In California, vandalism is a crime pursuant to Penal Code §594.  Criminal vandalism refers to the intentional and malicious act of damaging, defacing, or destroying someone else's property without the owner's consent.  


Criminal vandalism can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony.  Misdemeanor vandalism is generally associated with less severe penalties, while felony vandalism can result in more significant consequences, including up to 3 years of imprisonment.

While there are certainly more serious offenses than vandalism, criminal charges should never be taken lightly.  It is always recommended that someone charged with criminal vandalism speak directly with an attorney.


The following information is only intended to provide a general understanding of the crime of vandalism. To discuss the particular facts of your case, contact an experienced Orange County criminal defense lawyer at JPLaw, P.C. to schedule a FREE consultation.

1.  What is considered vandalism under PC §594?

Vandalism is defined under California Penal Code §594, sometimes referred to as PC 594. In order to be found guilty of criminal vandalism, the prosecutor must prove the following required elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant maliciously defaced, destroyed, or damaged real or personal property,

  2. The defendant was not the owner of the property, and

  3. The owner of the property did not consent to having the property damaged or destroyed.

Maliciously – Someone acts maliciously when he or she intentionally does a wrongful act or when he or she acts with the unlawful intent to annoy or injure someone else.

Penal Code §594 States:

(a) Every person who maliciously commits any of the following acts with respect to any real or personal property not his or her own, in cases other than those specified by state law, is guilty of vandalism:

(1) Defaces with graffiti or other inscribed material.

(2) Damages.

(3) Destroys.

(b)(1) If the amount of defacement, damage, or destruction is four hundred dollars ($400) or more, vandalism is punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or if the amount of defacement, damage, or destruction is ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or more, by a fine of not more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

2.  What are the penalties for vandalism?

The penalties for criminal vandalism depend on the severity of the charge. Vandalism is a misdemeanor whenever the amount of damage caused to the property is less than $400. 


However, if the value of the damage caused to the property exceeds $400, then the prosecutor can elect whether to charge the defendant with misdemeanor vandalism or felony vandalism.

The penalties for misdemeanor vandalism can include up to 1 year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and a 30-day driver’s license suspension. If the defendant has previously been convicted of vandalism, then the defendant can face an increased fine of up to $5,000.

The penalties for felony vandalism are much more serious.  A defendant convicted of felony vandalism can face up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.  If the value of the damage exceeds $10,000, then the defendant can be ordered to pay an increased fine of up to $50,000.

Inmate Handcuffed

A judge can also order that the defendant be imprisoned in jail as a condition of probation. 

3.  What are some common defenses to vandalism charges?

There are many defenses an experienced criminal lawyer can use to defend someone charged with vandalism under PC 594. The following are examples of some of the more common defenses.

Misidentification –

It is not uncommon for someone to be misidentified by the victim of a crime.  General descriptions of clothing, hair color, and facial features can often lead police to arresting and charging the wrong person with vandalism.

The best way to prove that the defendant has been misidentified is to provide an alibi.  An alibi is used to demonstrate that the defendant was in a different place at the exact time the crime was being committed, making it impossible for him/her to have committed the crime.

Lack of Intent –

Another useful defense to vandalism is a lack of malicious intent on behalf of the defendant.  Vandalism requires that the defendant intentionally commit a wrongful act or with the intent of annoying or harming someone else.


In some cases, however, a defendant may have accidentally damaged the property of another person.  For example, consider someone who forgets a fuel hose in their vehicle after pumping gas and drives off.  Despite the fact that the person may have caused damage to the fuel pump, the person would not be guilty of criminal vandalism because s/he wasn’t acting with a wrongful intent.

Judicial Diversion (PC 1001.95) –

Judicial diversion is a great option for those who may be guilty of vandalism but seek to take responsibility to avoid a criminal conviction on their record.  Under PC 1001.95, a judge may pause a criminal proceeding and permit the defendant to participate in diversion. 


During the period of diversion, the judge will require the defendant to complete certain tasks like perform community service, pay any restitution for the damage, and/or order the defendant to stay out of trouble.  If the defendant complies with all the terms of judicial diversion, then the case is dismissed, and the records of arrest are sealed.


Judicial diversion is intended to prevent the lifelong consequences of having a criminal record.  Visit the dedicated judicial diversion page to learn more about the benefits and eligibility requirement of diversion.  

community service

Tasks often include some form of community service or community labor. 

It is important to remember that every case is different. The viability of these defenses depends on the specific facts of the case and the applicable laws in your jurisdiction. Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney can help determine the most effective defense strategy based on the circumstances surrounding the vandalism charge.

4.  Are vandalism charges eligible for expungement?

California recognizes that a criminal conviction can have devastating effects on a person’s ability to find housing and employment.  To alleviate some of the burdens of a criminal conviction, California permits some defendants convicted of vandalism to petition for an expungement under Penal Code §1203.4.


An expungement is the legal process that allows a person to petition the court to set aside a conviction and dismiss a criminal case. An expungement will not erase the conviction but can be beneficial for individuals seeking employment or housing, as it will allow them to legally answer that they have not been convicted of the offense.


A conviction for vandalism under PC §594 is eligible for expungement.  Visit the dedicated expungements page to learn more about the eligibility requirements for an expungement in California. 

5.  What are the benefits of hiring a lawyer to defend vandalism charges?

Although it is not necessary to hire a criminal defense lawyer to fight your case, there are many benefits of hiring a private defense lawyer when facing criminal charges. Some key advantages include:

Knowledge & Experience –

The criminal justice system is a complex area of the law that is constantly changing.  Criminal defense lawyers have a deep understanding of criminal law, procedure, and the legal system. They can navigate complex legal processes, assess the strength of the prosecution's case, and identify potential defenses.

Courtroom Experience –

If your case goes to trial, having a lawyer with courtroom experience is crucial. Defense attorneys are trained to present a compelling case, cross-examine witnesses, and effectively argue legal points before a judge and jury.

Negotiation Skills –

Defense attorneys are experienced negotiators. They can engage with the prosecution to potentially negotiate plea deals, reduced charges, or alternative sentencing options, aiming for the best possible outcome given the circumstances.

Reduced Stress –

Dealing with criminal charges is inherently stressful. Having a defense lawyer by your side allows you to focus on your life and responsibilities while entrusting the legal aspects to a professional.

While hiring a criminal lawyer involves costs, the benefits it brings to your defense and the potential impact on the outcome of your case can be well worth the investment. It's important to consult with an attorney early in the legal process to ensure that your rights are protected and that you have the best possible defense strategy.

Contact An Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer 

Before pleading guilty, it’s important you contact an experienced attorney who will take the time to review the facts of your case and fight for you. Just because you have been charged with a crime doesn’t mean you’re guilty. Unlock new opportunities and regain control of your future.


Get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the complexities of the legal system and is dedicated to helping you. With personalized attention and a strategic approach, JPLaw, P.C. aims to minimize the impact of past mistakes on your life.


Enjoy the benefits of reduced penalties, enhanced employment prospects, and a chance for a fresh start. Take the first step toward a brighter future – contact JPLaw, P.C. today to schedule your FREE consultation.


Get In Touch!

Thanks for submitting!

JPLaw, P.C.

Orange County Law Office

Old Town Orange Office

410 N Clark St.
Orange, CA 92868

Phone: (949) 991-7057

bottom of page