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Compton, Felony Vandalism of Fence, Reduced to Misdemeanor

Our client, age 20, was walking home in Carson from a friend’s house after having a few beers and playing video games.  It was about 10:00 p.m. and our client was walking along Main Street, near the intersection of 216th Street.

As he was walking along the sidewalk there, he found a can of spray paint laying on the ground.  He picked it up and realized by shaking it that there was some spray paint still in the can.

He then got the idea to spray paint slogans from the video game on the cement block wall alongside the sidewalk.  The wall was the outer boundary of a City of Carson Parks and Recreation Center.  There was other graffiti on the wall, but there was a thirty foot section with no graffiti, so our client decided to spray paint there.  The spray paint was light blue in color.

As he began spraying painting the video game slogans, a City of Compton sheriff’s car drove my and saw what our client was doing.  The sheriffs stopped their car and told our client to stop what he was doing and sit down.

Instead, our client dropped the spray paint can and ran towards his house.  As he ran, because he was so drunk, he tripped on his own feet twice and the police quickly reached him.

He was then arrested on suspicion of committing felony vandalism, a violation of Penal Code § 594(a), and taken to the Compton Police Station alongside the Compton Superior Court.  

Our client was booked and then allowed to call his parents to pick him up from the police station.  Before being released, our client signed a promise to appear in the Compton Superior Court in about two months.

The day after he was released, the client’s father and our client went to Home Depot and purchased about $60 in paint that was the same color as the cinder block wall that our client spray painted.

The client and his dad then went back to the wall and pained over the spray paint.  Their repair was a perfect match to the pre-existing color of the wall and completely covered over the spray paint.  

The client and his father then called Greg Hill & Associates and explained what had happened, including their repair work.

Greg explained that while the case may be filed as a felony because such a repair job, while perhaps costing just $50 in supplies, would also involve a few hours of labor, which would mostly likely total over $450, meeting the minimum threshold for a felony vandalism case.

However, since the City of Carson had not painted over the fix our client and his father made, we could argue that the actual cost was zero and therefore, a misdemeanor charge was more appropriate.

The client then sent Greg a video of the repainted, repaired wall that our client had vandalized and hired Greg Hill & Associates.

Greg then appeared with the client for his arraignment in the Compton Superior Court.  The case indeed was filed as a felony vandalism matter.  The police report stated that the repair costs for a forty-foot section would be $4,672.33 and for a twenty-foot section $1,711.59.  

Over the next two court appearances, Greg was able to show the judge the video of the repaired wall and ask the judge to reclassify the case as a misdemeanor, which she did.  Greg then made a motion for judicial diversion, which the judge denied, explaining that the case was originally a felony, so she believed it would be ineligible.

While Greg and the client certainly appreciated the judge reclassifying the case as a misdemeanor, Greg disagreed with the judge’s ruling on the motion for imposition of judicial diversion, but the client was more than happy to accept the misdemeanor conviction.  

Greg also understood that the City of Carson, had it agreed that the fence was repaired, could have agreed to a civil compromise of the case, which meant the judge could have dismissed the case were it reassigned to a misdemeanor courtroom.  However, again, the client was simply so happy with a misdemeanor, rather than a felony, that he explained he just wanted closure on the case.

Our client was then placed on one year of summary, or informal, probation with court fees and fines of $220 (no penalties and assessments) and an obligation to pay restitution, if any, claimed by the City of Carson.  The City of Carson then failed to appear at the restitution hearing, so our client owed no restitution for the costs of repair.

For more information about vandalism and graffiti and the issues in this case, please click on the following articles:
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