Domestic Violence Vandalism in Los Angeles

Domestic Violence Vandalism

When people think about what constitutes a domestic violence offense, they usually focus on crimes involving acts of violence against a current of former spouse or lover, such as corporal injury to a spouse in violation of California Penal Code Section 273.5 PC or domestic battery in violation of California Penal Code Section 243(e) PC. However, in California “domestic violence” is considered any crime in which the victim is a class of person identified in California Family Code Section 6211 FC. This includes current and former spouses, current and former cohabitants, current or former boyfriends or girlfriends, children, co-parents or blood relatives. Domestic violence cases are not limited to crimes involving actual physical harm and can include a wide variety of offenses where no one is actually hurt or threatened. In some cases, a crime will be considered a domestic violence offense when the victim is one of the people listed in California Family Code 6211 FC. If this is the case, the defendant would be subject to mandatory sentencing provisions if convicted of the underlying crime pursuant to California Penal Code Section 1203.097 PC. One crime that can be considered “domestic violence” is vandalism in violation of California Penal Code Section 594 PC.

Vandalism as a Domestic Violence Offense

Under California Penal Code Section 594 PC, vandalism is a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. In the People v. Cates decision, the California Court of Appeals held that a vandalism conviction where the victim is a person listed in California Family Code Section 6211 FC would be considered a crime of domestic violence and would subject the defendant to mandatory sentencing conditions. Under California Penal Code Section 1203.097 PC, this would include a minimum three year probation period, a 52-week batterer’s class, a minimum $500 fine, a protective order and mandatory community service. In addition, the defendant would be expected to pay restitution for any damages caused as a result of the act of vandalism.

In Los Angeles County, non-domestic vandalism charges may be eligible for Court diversion under California Penal Code Section 1001.94 PC. However, this diversion statute does not apply when the victim is a person identified in California Family Code Section 6211 FC. This means that a defendant with a domestic violence vandalism charge may not be eligible for court diversion.

Elements of Vandalism

In order to convict a defendant of vandalism, the prosecutor would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant maliciously defaced property with graffiti, damaged or otherwise destroyed property and that the defendant did not own the property or have the owner’s consent.

In many domestic violence cases, a defendant may be accused of destroying or defacing property that is jointly owned with a spouse, such as a vehicle. Even if this is the case, the defendant could still be guilty of vandalism, as California Penal Code Section 594 PC applies to property that is owned jointly with another person.

Defenses to Vandalism

There are several defenses that may be applicable to defendants who are charged with vandalism as a domestic violence crime. California Penal Code Section 594 PC requires a showing that the defendant acted maliciously when he or she destroyed the property of another. If property was destroyed by accident, the defendant would have a valid defense.

If you have been charged with vandalism against a domestic partner, it is imperative that you meet with an attorney experienced in fighting domestic violence cases immediately. Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who understands how to effectively defend clients charged with vandalism and other related offenses.

For more information about domestic violence and vandalism, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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