Court Finds Felony Vandalism Through Damage Aggregation

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Let's say that you have a client who, for whatever reason, flipped out and started smashing stuff. Stuff that wasn't his. More than $400 worth of stuff. You know your client is going to be fighting a felony vandalism charge.

But wait -- could there be a loophole? If the destroyed stuff belonged to different people, and the damage to each individual's stuff didn't exceed $400, could your client walk away with misdemeanor vandalism?

Not according to a California Appellate Court.

In a case of first impression, California's Second Appellate District held that, "where a defendant commits multiple acts of vandalism pursuant to a single general impulse, intention or plan, the fact that the damage is to property owned by more than one victim does not preclude aggregation" for felony vandalism charge.

As usual, we're turning to the facts to see how the court reached this conclusion.

Manuel Carrasco freaked out when his mother refused to let him into a house where she was living temporarily. He threw a statue through the front window of the house and thereafter bust the windows of her car.

Carrasco's mother was the sole owner of the car. She paid $382 to repair the broken car windows. His father owned the house, and paid $265 to repair the broken house window. Neither shared these expenses.

Carrasco was charged with, and convicted of, felony vandalism, which applies to destruction, defacement, or damage of at least $400. On appeal, he argued that because his father was the sole owner of the house, and the damage to the house and car respectively did not total $400 or more, he could only be convicted of two counts of misdemeanor vandalism.

Relying on the California Supreme Court's reasoning in People v. Bailey, the appellate court concluded that aggregation of the damage amount is appropriate when the damage did not result from separate and distinct criminal acts and was inflicted pursuant to a single general impulse, intention or plan.

Here, the court affirmed Carrasco's felony vandalism conviction, because Carrasco's successive acts of vandalism were "pursuant to a single angry impulse directed toward his mother's refusal to let him into the house."

If your client damaged at least $400 worth of property in a single fit of rage or diabolical plot, he can be charged with felony vandalism.

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