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Criminal Defense Blog Post

The Right to Free Speech and Free Assembly Does Not Include Vandalism

The acquittal in Florida of George Zimmerman after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin brought hundreds of protestors into the streets of cities across the U.S., including Oakland, California. It appears that the prosecution overcharged Zimmerman: although the prosecution may have been able to prove manslaughter, they swung for the fences with 2nd degree murder and struck out instead. The legal intricacies notwithstanding, many across the country viewed the resulting acquittal as racists, and as a result rose up in sometimes violent protest.

Every citizen of the United States has the right to free speech and peaceful assembly, but many of the Oakland protestors resorted to violence and destroyed property belonging to other Oakland residents. There is no right to destroy another person’s property in the exercise of free expression. Moreover, the protesters themselves have a lot to lose from engaging in vandalism.

Vandalism is a crime and there is a lot to be lost

Punishments vary depending on the nature and extent of the vandalism:

  • First conviction for damage less than $400. The penalty imposed can be up to a year in the county jail and up to a $1,000 fine
  • Second conviction for damage less than $400. A second conviction can result in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Damage greater the $400. A first conviction for damaging more than $400 worth of property can result in  up to a year in the county jail and up to a $50,000 fine
  • Other Restitution. The Court may also order the defendant or if the defendant is a minor, the parents, to clean up, repair or replace the destroyed property

If a minor causes the damage and cannot pay the fine or other costs, the Court can order the parents of the convicted minor to pay the fine assessed, unless the court waives the fine for good cause.

If you are charged with vandalism or are the parent of a minor being charged with vandalism it is important that you contact an experienced San Jose criminal attorney as soon as an arrest is made.

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Creech Liebow & Kraus
333 West San Carlos Street, Suite 1600
San Jose, California, 95110-2726 USA