Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been through a lot since the 2016 election. The star has been defaced or destroyed on at least 5 different occasions since he was elected. Three different men have been arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism. Two are accused of destroying the star with a pickax. A third man is accused of drawing swastikas in permanent marker on the controversial star.
What is Vandalism?
Destroying something with a pickax and drawing swastikas are two very different behaviors. However, under California law, they’re both considered acts of vandalism. Vandalism, as defined in Penal Code 594 PC, occurs when you do any of the following things to property that doesn’t belong to you:
- Destroy, or
- Deface with graffiti or other inscribed material.
In other words, damaging or doing something to devalue another person’s property is considered an act of vandalism.
You Must Have a Malicious Intent
It’s not enough to damage or destroy another person’s property. You must also act with malicious intent. This simply means that you intentionally damaged, destroyed, or defaced someone else’s property with the intent to injure or annoy. The intent requirement helps to protect you in the event that you destroy or damage property by mistake.
What’s Considered Graffiti or Other Inscribed Material?
In California, graffiti or other inscribed material can include any unauthorized inscription, word, figure, design, or mark. Grafitti can be written, etched, scratched, draw, or painted.
One of the men accused of vandalism reportedly used a black permanent marker to draw swastikas on the Hollywood star. This behavior would likely be considered “defacing with graffiti or other inscribed material” because it involved:
- A design
- Painted or drawn on real or personal property.
Is Vandalism a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
Vandalism can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony offense in the state of California. The specific charge will typically depend on:
- How much it will cost to repair to defaced, damaged, or destroyed property
- Where the property was located or who owned it; and
- Prior vandalism convictions.
There are three different situations in which vandalism can be charged as a misdemeanor offense:
- Vandalism causing damage of less than $400
- Vandalism causing damage between $400 and $10,000, and
- Second convictions for acts of vandalism.
Misdemeanor vandalism is punishable by a maximum of:
- 1 year in a Los Angeles County Jail, and
- $10,000 in fines.
There are different scenarios in which vandalism can be charged as a felony:
- Vandalism causing damage between $400 and $10,000
- Vandalism causing damage in excess of $10,000
- Vandalism of a place of worship
- Vandalism considered to be a hate crime, and
- Vandalism committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Felony vandalism, without aggravating factors or sentencing enhancements, is punishable by a maximum of:
- Three years in a California state prison; and
- $50,000 in fines.
Sentences may also include probation and the requirements to clean or repair the vandalized property.
Why is it a Felony to Vandalize a Hollywood Star?
The three men arrested for vandalizing Trump’s star have been charged with felonies. Why? Vandalism is a wobbler when the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged property is between $400 and $10,000. A wobbler is a crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. It’s very possible that the cost of repairing a Hollywood star on the Walk of Fame is more than $400 but less than $10,000.
Here, the acts of vandalism were very public. The state may have decided to pursue felony charges as a way to not only punish the men accused of destroying the star, but to also deter others from doing the same thing in the future.
Rather than facing just 6 months to 1 year behind bars, these men now face up to 3 years in a California state prison.
Have you been arrested for vandalism in Los Angeles? Contact the Rodriguez Law Group for immediate legal assistance. A criminal conviction can change your life forever. Our criminal defense attorneys can help you fight for the very best result in your vandalism case. Call our law firm today to learn more.