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How graffiti crimes are punished in California

In driving around California's inner cities, it doesn't take long before you encounter graffiti. It's virtually everywhere. In fact, as soon as one community service worker paints over one surface, it seems like another tagger comes and puts graffiti on it all over again.

If you've ever been caught with a spray can in your hand, then you're probably all to aware that tagging is illegal in California. Section 594 of California's Penal Code highlights that taggers can be either charged with either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the extent of the damage they leave behind. Additionally, each location tagged counts at a separate offense.

As a general rule of thumb, any damage that is assessed to have a value of less than $400 is punished as a misdemeanor. It's also punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and as much as one year in jail.

In contrast, any defendant that is charged with having caused damage assessed at $400 or more has the potential of being charged as a felon. Those charged with felony graffiti crimes risk being fined as much as $10,000. They can also be required to spend as much as a year in prison.

In addition to the aforementioned fines and sentences, the tagger may also be held liable for repairing the building that was vandalized. This may include painting over the graffiti and then maintaining its cleanliness for as long as a year after sentencing. As for vandals that are minors, the child's parents may be held responsible for carrying out these duties.

While minors may avoid jail sentences, they may be punished by up to six months of probation for tagging. Although it rarely occurs, a judge could even order that the minor to be made one of the state's wards up until age 21 for committing a graffiti offense.

The length of the punishment a defendant receives may be impacted by how violated the victim felt, whether the offense was gang-related or if the individual has a prior criminal record.

A criminal record, whether it's for graffiti, drugs or something else can impact your ability to secure gainful employment, qualify for student loans and give way to other unnecessary obstacles in your life. If you've been charged with a graffiti offense, then a Van Nuys theft and property crimes attorney may be able to discuss some defense strategies with you.

Source: Sacramento Press, "What is the punishment for graffitti?," accessed Aug. 24, 2017

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