The offense of malicious mischief or vandalism in California is committed when you maliciously deface, damage, or destroy the property of another without consent.

The potential penalty for this offense depends on the value of the damage that was done to the property.

Property Damage Cost/Value Potential Sentence
Less than $400 Up to 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines
$400-$10,000 Up to 1 year in jail or prison and $10,000 in fines
More than $10,000 Up to 1 year in jail or prison and $50,000 in fines

If this isn’t your first offense conviction under this law, your fines could potentially be increased.

Also, if the commission of this act of Vandalism involves graffiti, part of your sentence will involve cleaning or replacing the property that was damaged by the law violation. California courts are becoming much stricter on this punishment.

Ref: CA Penal Code §594

Vandalism of a Religious Site – CA Laws

If you knowingly commit an act of vandalism against any place of worship like a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or building where religion is taught or worship services are held you could be charged with this offense. This includes damaging, defacing, or destroying any part of these properties.

Generally this offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in a county jail. However, if it is determined that the act was committed as a hate crime and committed to intimidate or deter people from practicing their religion, it is considered a felony and carries a potential indeterminate sentence in the California State Prison system.

Ref: CA Penal Code §594.3

Other Property Damage / Malicious Mischief / Vandalism Penalties

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. These hours will have to be completed within a period no more than 240 days. Part or all of your required community service requirement will likely be spent removing graffiti or keeping an area free of vandalism.

The court can also, according to law, order you to undergo counseling as well for a vandalism offense.

Ref: CA Penal Code §594.6

Arson and Accidental Fire Charges

There are criminal charges for setting fires, either deliberately or accidentally, if there is damage to personal property or homes. Especially in California, if you are careless or reckless with a campfire that gets out of the control, dangerous wind conditions always create a risk of the fire spreading out of control.

Criminal charges may include recklessly starting a fire causing injury and causing an inhabited structure to burn.

And of course, deliberately setting a fire can mean felony arson charges.