Lancaster, 6 Counts Felony Graffiti, Plea to 1 Misdemeanor
Our client was quite cooperative with police, who regarded our client with a fair level of curiosity. In his graffiti, our client was not signing his name or initials or anything related to any gang. He was not signing his own name or writing foul language.Synopsis: Lancaster client faces six counts of felony vandalism (Penal Code § 594(a)) for graffiti, case resolved for one misdemeanor count with community service and restitution.
Greg Hill & Associates was retained and immediately noticed that the case bore a striking similarity to a recent juvenile case, Luis M. v. The Los Angeles Superior Court (2012 DJDAR 15097) (cite as Luis M. v. Superior Court (2012) 148 Cal.Rptr.3d 795, 210 Cal.App.4th 982), involving graffiti in Lancaster, no less.
In that case, the Lancaster District Attorney had charged a juvenile with felony vandalism, basing the charge on the average cost ($432) for the City of Lancaster to investigate, process and finally repair the damage. As the reader may know, felony vandalism involves damage that exceeds $400; misdemeanor vandalism involves damage of less than $400. The juvenile challenged the prosecutor’s method of calculating the repair cost. The appeals court ruled that the city could only factor in the cost to repair and its cost must be based on the actual cost of the specific repair, not any average cost overall to the city. The case against the juvenile was then remanded with instructions to tailor the charges to the actual costs to the specific vandalism at issue.
In our client’s case, the City of Lancaster alleged that the cost to repair the six instances of vandalism was also $432 each. The similarity was more than coincidence.
Greg Hill brought this to the District Attorney’s attention and even showed the District Attorney the other opinion. Greg asked the District Attorney for repair estimates for each of the six instances of vandalism involving our client, some of which were very minor and surely involved repair costs of far less than an average patch of graffiti.
Greg also prepared and filed a Motion to Reclassify the case as a misdemeanor on all counts under Penal Code § 17(b).
The District Attorney fumbled around with the case for two more appearances, explaining that he could not get the police to provide the actual damage estimates for the specific damage in this case. Finally, he caved in and reduced one count of the complaint to misdemeanor vandalism and dismissed the other five counts.
He then offered our client a plea bargain wherein he would plead to one count of misdemeanor vandalism in exchange for three years of informal probation, 30 days of graffiti removal and restitution of $4,000. The $4,000 amount was negotiated down from $7,338, which was the “estimated” cost to repair based on Lancaster’s average cost to repair. Our client also has the option to end probation in one year and expunge conviction.
The client was very happy with the resolution, as he could keep his job and completely avoided prison.
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