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Vandalism Law & Defense

PC 594 Crimes

The law on the crime of vandalism is found at California penal code section 594. There are several variations of PC 594 crimes that may be charged depending on the particular set of facts of the case. For example, PC594(a)-M is charged where the amount of vandalism damage is less than four hundred dollars ($400), whereas PC594(b)(1)-F is charged where the amount of vandalism damage is more than four hundred dollars ($400). Different vandalism charges carry different punishments.

The Law

PC 594(a): Every person who maliciously defaces, damages, or destroys any real or personal property not his or her guilty of vandalism (PC 594(a) Abbrev.).

Note: When a person violates PC 594(a) with respect to real property, vehicles, signs, fixtures, furnishings, or property belonging to any public entity, it shall be a permissive inference that the person neither owned the property nor had the permission of the owner to deface, damage, or destroy the property (PC 594(a) Abbrev.).

In order for the District Attorney to prove that the defendant committed vandalism under any PC 594 crime he or she must prove that the defendant maliciously (intentionally) destroyed or damaged the personal property of another person or government entity.


Classification of Crime: Vandalism may be classified as a misdemeanor or as a felony when the damage, defacement, or destruction is found hundred dollars ($400) or more (PC 594(b). When the damage is under four hundred dollars ($400), the charge is usually filed a a misdemeanor (PC 594(a)).

Jail: PC 594(a) is classified as a misdemeanor. Punishment can include a jail sentence in the county jail up to one (1) year.


Note: PC 594(b)(1) may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. When PC 594(b)(1) is charged as a misdemeanor the defendant may face up to one (1) year in the county jail. When PC 594(b)(1) is charged as a felony the defendant may face up to three (3) years in county jail. Whether or not a misdemeanor or felony vandalism crime will be charged under PC 594(b)(1) depends largely on the defendant criminal history and the egregiousness of the crime.


Probation Sentence: All vandalism crimes are eligible for a probation sentence. Probation is a period of supervision where the defendant must comply with certain probation terms. Probation can include some jail time, but usually probation sentences that include jail time allow for the jail time to be served on house arrest (electronic monitoring) or work release. Other probation terms include the payment of fines, restraining orders, repayment of the damage for the vandalism, etc. Felony probation requires the defendant to check in with a probation officer, whereas misdemeanor probation (also known as court probation, summary probation, or informal probation) does not require the supervision of a probation officer.

Other common alternatives to jail include split sentences and suspended sentences. A split sentence is a jail sentence that may be served partially out of jail on work release or house arrest. A suspended sentence is a jail sentence that may never have to be served if the defendant does not violate a condition of his or her out of custody sentence(PC 1170(h)).

In addition to any possible jail commitment, if the defendant is found guilty of vandalism under PC 594(a) or PC 594(b)(1), he or she will be made to pay restitution, pay penalty fines, possibly lose his or her professional or occupational licensing, likely lose his or her immigration status (for non-U.S. citizens), be subjected to civil lawsuits, lose his or her right to own or possess a firearm (for felony vandalism convictions), and more.

Note: Vandalism crimes are not considered serious or violent crimes under California law. Therefore, neither PC 594(a), nor PC 594(b)(1) are considered strike offenses. If the defendant is sentenced to jail or prison for any vandalism charge he or she will be entitled to earn up to fifty percent (50%) credit off his or her sentence for good behavior while in custody.


Defenses to vandalism charges include: insufficient evidence to prove either the crime occurred or the value of the damaged or destroyed property, mistake of fact as to the ownership of the property destroyed, statute of limitations (time that the District Attorney must file the vandalism charges before the judge will dismiss the case for untimely filing), coerced confessions, intoxication, insanity, claim of right, consent to destroy, and more.

Note: In some misdemeanor vandalism charges, it might be possible to settle the case through a civil compromise, whereby the defendant avoids criminal prosecution for agreeing to pay for the damage and with approval from the alleged victim. This should only be done throgh a criminal defense attorney to avoid further punishments, not the least of which is a witness intimidation charge.

If you or a loved one is charged with vandalism under PC 594(a), PC 594(b)(1), or other vandalism charge, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys dedicate 100% of their practice to criminal defense and we have successfully handled many felony and misdemeanor vandalism charges. Our attorneys will inform you of your rights and defense options. We are available 24/7 to assist you. Call today!


Related Crimes


  • PC 594(b)(1) Vandalism

  • PC 594(b)(2)(A) Vandalism

  • PC 594((b)(2)(B) Vandalism with prior

  • PC 594.1(b) Purchase aerosol container of paint by minor

  • PC 594.2 Possession of graffiti tools

  • PC 594.3 Vandalism of a place of worship or cemetery

  • PC 594.7 Vandalism with prior (alternate charge)

Quick Reference​ Sheet

Crime: Vandalism

Code: PC 594(b)(1) (CalCrim No. 2900)

Wobbler: PC 594(b)(1) is a wobbler. This means that PC 594(b)(1) may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.

Incarceration:Felony PC 594(b)(1) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years (if probation not granted) . Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year. Note: Felony vandalism is charged when the alleged damage is $400 or more and misdemeanor vandalism is charged when the alleged damage is less than $400.

Probation: Probation is allowed in felony and misdemeanor PC 594(b)(1) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar probation sentences are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

PC 1170(h)): Yes. PC 594(b)(1) is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may usually be:

  • Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)

  • Suspended (possibly never served)

  • Served in county jail (not state prison)

  • Note: Some limitations may apply

  • Note: Limitations may apply

Strike: PC 594(b)(1) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 594(b)(1) is not a crime involving moral turpitude.


Firearms: Felony PC 594(b)(1) convictions bar defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.

Bail: $25,000 (Felony); $5,000 (Misdemeanor) (San Bernardino)

Note: More penalties, direct or indirect, may apply. This info is created for that purpose only; accuracy not guaranteed. No attorney/client relationship is formed by use of this info. If arrested or charged with a crime contact a criminal defense lawyer without delay. 

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