Skip to Content
Free Criminal Consultation! 805-467-6060

What Does Malicious Mischief Mean?

Vandalism Charges in California

If you live in California, you’ve most likely seen graffiti, defaced signs, and other types of property damage on buildings. If you’ve seen this type of damage, then you’ve seen what vandalism looks like. Believe it or not, those seemingly minor inscriptions and drawings made on buildings and signs are often perceived as criminal activity in most cases. But that’s not all.

Have you ever witnessed or participated in activities like “egging” people, “TP’ing” houses, and “keying” vehicles? If you have, then you have witnessed or participated in a crime. This is because criminal mischief is illegal in California.

Criminal Mischief Definition

Criminal mischief, or “malicious mischief,” occurs when a person maliciously commits any of the following acts against another person’s property:

  • Defaces another’s property with graffiti or other inscribed material
  • Damages property
  • Destroys property

If this sounds like vandalism to you, you’re right. Malicious mischief in California is synonymous with vandalism. That said, you should think twice before getting up to no good. Vandalism is a serious crime in California, and contrary to popular belief, it is punishable by fines and even jail time if circumstances call for it.

Is Malicious Mischief a Misdemeanor?

Most criminal mischief cases are prosecuted as misdemeanors in California. That said, the penalties depend on the value of the damages, defaced, or destroyed property. Nonetheless, the penalties for malicious mischief can be harsh. See below:

The value of the property is $400 or more: Vandalism is punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and/or a $10,000 to $50,000 fine.

The value of the property is less than $400: Vandalism is punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and/or a maximum $1,000 fine. If you were previously convicted of vandalism or graffitiing, the penalty will be a maximum of 1 year in county jail, but this time, the fine could increase to a maximum of $5,000.

Another consequence of a misdemeanor malicious mischief conviction in California is clean up, repairs, or replacement. If a judge deems it appropriate, they may order you to clean up, repair, or replace the damaged property on your own dime. If the offender is a minor, they and their parents may be ordered to clean up graffiti in their community for up to 1 year. However, if the parent is a single parent with minor children, a judge may order the juvenile offender to do other types of community service.

Examples of Vandalism

As you can see, vandalism is no joke. Although it is a widely committed crime, that doesn’t downplay the seriousness of the crime. You could go to jail, pay fines, do community service, and even suffer civil ramifications such as lawsuits.

With this in mind, what are some examples of vandalism and other types of malicious mischief? See below:

  • Spray painting another person’s property
  • Slashing the tires of a vehicle
  • Breaking windows
  • Defacing street signs
  • Removing street signs
  • Egging a person’s property or vehicle
  • Toilet-papering or “TP-ing” another person’s property or vehicle
  • Keying a vehicle
  • Putting glue in a door lock
  • Shattering streetlights

These examples probably look familiar to you. Whether you’ve committed these acts yourself or witnessed another person doing so, the bottom line is that vandalism and other types of criminal mischief are illegal in California. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the police will let you off the hook — if they catch you in the act, they will likely arrest you.

If you are charged with malicious mischief, get legal defense right away. You don’t want this offense to appear on your record, as a criminal conviction may not sit well with your employer, university, landlord, and loved ones. Rather than waiting around, we encourage you to get working on your defense with our attorneys today.

To chat about your situation and learn your next steps, contact us at (805) 467-6060!