Once again the Vietnam War memorial in Venice, California has been marred by graffti. The memorial was vandalized last year by graffiti.

Vandalism of Vietnam War Memorial

Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives are investigating the latest defacement of the massive mural along Pacific Avenue. According to Ramon Montenegro, a spokesman for the sheriff’s Transit Policing Division, the graffiti, which consists of thin, hastily written letters, appears to have been painted by gang members.

The mural is reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., with a black background, it bears the names of 2,273 soldiers counted as either prisoners of war or missing in action in Vietnam, as well as the words “You Are Not Forgotten.”

In May 2016, just before Memorial Day, the wall was tagged by Angel Castro, a 24-year-old tagger known as “Liter.” He received four years in state prison after pleading no contest to vandalism and robbery. He also was ordered to pay $38,000 restitution.

According to Montenegro, the new graffiti “looks a lot more amateurish … like it came from somebody that had a spray can of paint.”
The graffiti on the veterans memorial “strikes a nerve with people, including me because I’m a veteran myself,” Montenegro said.

Vandalism in California

While it might seem harmless, the simple act of carving ones initials into a rock or tree can be a very serious offense and be considered “vandalism.”

The crime of vandalism includes damaging, destroying, and defacing schools, churches, cemeteries, mail boxes, motor vehicles, or another’s personal property. Under California’s Vandalism Law, Penal Code § 594, if it’s not your property and you deface, destroy, or damage it, without the owner’s consent, you have committed a crime of vandalism.

Depending on the circumstances, vandalism charges may be prosecuted as misdemeanors or as felonies. Whether the cause for the vandalism is juvenile mischief, creative expression, or malicious intent, the consequences for it can be severe. A first time offense with damages under $400 is usually charged as a misdemeanor, with no jail time, fines, restitution, or community service but with three years of “informal” probation. For any property damage crime in the state of California, you may be required to complete up to 300 hours of community service as part of your sentence. It is possible that your entire required community service requirement will be spent removing graffiti or keeping an area free of vandalism.

While carving ones initials into a tree or, in Hudgens’ case rock, might seem harmless, it can have lasting legal implications. One such similar offense that occurs in Los Angeles quite often is spray painting.

Spray Painting

While rock or tree carving might be innocent, the act of spray painting carries with it a more devious or delinquent quality. Spray painting on other people’s walls, an activity commonly practiced in urban Southern California, is almost always regarded as a form of vandalism, though not always. California law takes a dim view of spray paint cans used for the purpose of graffiti.

Possessing Spray Paint with intent on committing vandalism, (California Penal Code 594.2(a)), makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to possess spray paint with the intent to commit vandalism or graffiti.

Carrying Spray Paint on Public Streets, (California Penal Code 594.1(d)-(e)) makes it unlawful for anyone to carry spray paint while in a public facility like a park, playground, or recreational area. It is also unlawful to carry spray paint while on a public highway or street. Both of these crimes are misdemeanors.

Distinguishing Between Misdemeanor, Felony, and Infraction

There’s a lot of legal jargon that gets thrown around, which can make it confusing for any person. Below we will outline the differences between misdemeanors, felonies, and infractions.

Criminal systems across the U.S. distinguish crimes by the level of seriousness. As a result, there are several different categories. This categorization determines how a court system will treat a particular case in terms of sentencing, meaning assignment of fines and/or jail time. It should be noted that within the following categories, there are also various classes and stages, such as Vanessa Hudgens’ “Class 2” misdemeanor.

Infractions

Infractions are typically seen as the “least serious” of crimes, and is usually expressed in the form of a ticket and fine. For example, a police officer pulls you over for speeding. This is an infraction, and usually means you will receive a ticket and have to pay a fine. Infractions usually result in little to no time in court. Common infractions include: traffic tickets, jaywalking tickets, and in some states, minor drug possession charges. If infractions are not addressed or are left unpaid, the law usually allows for an increasing range of fines and also possible additional penalties.

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are considered more serious that infractions. They are often defined as a crime that is punishable by up to a year of jail time. That jail time is typically served in a local county jail rather than a high security prison.
A misdemeanor can also be defined as a crime that is not an infraction or a felony. Prosecutors typically have a degree of flexibility when they decide what crime to charge, how to punish the crime, and what kinds of plea bargains they’ll allow for negotiation.

Felonies

Felonies are the most serious charge. They are typically punishable by a prison sentence of greater than one year. Typical felonies include: murder, rape, burglary, kidnapping, and arson. There is a wide variety of sentences that can accompany felonies. These sentences are based on the severity of the crime.

Avoiding Jail Time

While Hudgens and her boyfriend face jail time for the act of vandalism, there are ways to avoid actually serving time. Depending on the specifics of your vandalism case, you may be eligible for alternative sentencing, including serving house arrest or secured electronic confinement. A criminal defense attorney might be able to secure this for you, rather than having to serve jail time. This is why it is always encouraged that you work with a criminal defense lawyer.

Why Work with a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Criminal defense attorneys are able to defend you in a way that you potentially could not. They have experience and a familiarity with the law to be able to forge the best criminal defense for you. Prior to filing, a district attorney’s office must consider whether to file the case as a felony or a misdemeanor. Often times, a criminal defense attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to reduce or even eliminate vandalism charges before they’ve even been filed. If charges are filed, a criminal defense attorney will be able to argue for community service and graffiti cleanup duty or house arrest rather than a jail sentence.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

Criminal defense attorneys defend adults, juveniles, professionals, college students, military personnel, public employees, and anyone else who faces serious charges in state or federal court. Some of the charges we handle include:

  • Violent crimes from simple assault or weapons offenses to gang crimes, armed robbery, kidnapping or homicide
  • Sex offenses such as sexual assault, statutory rape or online solicitation of a minor
  • DUI, including implied consent, underage drunk driving violations, DUI and felony DUI
  • Drug crimes, including drug investigation, drug possession, distribution, cultivation, manufacturing and trafficking
  • Domestic violence, including spousal abuse or elder abuse
  • Juvenile defense, including misdemeanor property crimes, high school or college student crimes and serious felonies
  • Serious traffic violations such as reckless driving or driving without a license
  • Probation or parole problems, involving new charges or technical violations
  • Theft offenses, including felony or misdemeanor charges of larceny, robbery, grand theft, shoplifting, grand theft auto or burglary
  • Credit card fraud, including bank fraud, forgery or identity theft
  • White collar crimes, including money laundering, health care fraud, mortgage fraud, bank fraud embezzlement and Internet crimes
  • Federal crimes, including federal drug charges and federal fraud and white collar crimes charges

Working with the Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman

If you have been arrested for criminal trespassing, vandalism, destruction of property or another property crime, you need to immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer like the ones at the Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman. Based in Los Angeles, California, we defend clients against all misdemeanor and felony property crimes. Whether you are facing charges of criminal trespass, graffiti tagging or arson, we are ready to provide the strong defense you require.

Speak to a Los Angeles Property Crimes Attorney Today

There are many criminal defense firms you may choose to handle your case. Why hire us?

  • Our defense team includes a former prosecutor
  • We offer flat fees in many criminal cases
  • We have defended hundreds of clients throughout California against criminal charges ranging from criminal traffic offenses to murder charges
  • We offer skilled trial attorneys
  • We are highly adept at plea negotiations because we are creative and proactive
  • We care. Our defense attorneys chose criminal law as their focus because they want to make a positive difference in the lives of people whose freedom, record and rights are at risk

For immediate assistance, contact one of our Los Angeles attorneys at 213-514-8324 or contact us by e-mail.

Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.
Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman