California Vehicle Code 10853 VC

VC 10853 – Malicious Mischief to a Vehicle

VC 10853 - Malicious Mischief to a Vehicle

Malicious Mischief to a Vehicle – Table of Contents

VC 10853 – Overview

Mischief to a Vehicle, CA Vehicle Code 10853 VC, is defined by the state as anyone who intentionally commits malicious mischief, injury, or other crime to a vehicle. Additionally, the statute prohibits any attempt to manipulate any of the levers, brakes or starting mechanism of a vehicle. It is also unlawful to set a vehicle in motion when it is parked and unattended.

Certainly, anyone who damages someone else’s property, including a vehicle, may be committing a crime. Of course, causing damage to a car as the result of a traffic accident would not generally constitute a crime, but slashing tires, keying a car, defacing a car with graffiti, smashing windows and breaking headlights or rear-view mirrors can lead to serious penalties including a fine and jail time. Even throwing eggs at a car could trigger criminal charges. While egging a neighbor’s car may seem harmless at the time, sometimes “innocent” acts result in criminal charges.

VC 10853 – Sentencing

Mischief to a Vehicle in California is a misdemeanor, and if a defendant is convicted of VC 10853, Mischief to a Vehicle, the possible penalties include:

  • custody in county jail for up to six months and/or
  • a fine up to $1,000.

Another consideration with a charge for VC 10853 is that prosecutors often charge multiple crimes for one prohibited activity. There are several reasons why this is done, but you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to identify how the charges overlap and which charges could result in harsher penalties. This is vital for successful plea bargaining, and equally important when preparing for trial because the difference in possible penalties if convicted can be significant.

For example, if you are arrested for spray painting graffiti onto a car, you can be charged with Malicious Mischief to a Vehicle under VC 10853. However, you could also be simultaneously charged with California Penal Code section 594 for Vandalism. As mentioned, VC 10853 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.

In comparison, a charge for vandalism under PC 594 can be charged as a misdemeanor (if the damage is less than $400), but can be charged as a felony (if the damage is greater than $400). Significantly, a felony conviction for vandalism can result in a jail term of between one and three years and/or a fine up to $10,000 (or more depending on the amount of damage).

Of course, any conviction, even a misdemeanor, could have an impact beyond the actual sentence. While misdemeanors generally do not trigger the same collateral consequences as a felony conviction, any conviction, no matter how “minor,” will be public record. Moreover, depending on the state, you may be asked to disclose any convictions including misdemeanors.

Fortunately, for the most part, unlike felonies, misdemeanors do not have the same potential to impact employment, admission to school or professional organizations, obtaining housing and immigration status. While a conviction under VC 10853 does not necessarily mean there will be on-going consequences beyond the actual sentence.

VC 10853 – Prosecuting

Broadly, under California law, “malicious mischief” also known as “criminal mischief” includes vandalism, graffiti and defacing property. The act itself must be intentional, and the defendant must also intend to cause the damage. This is what is known in criminal law as a specific intent crime. In other words, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant not only intended the act (i.e., swinging a baseball bat), but also intended to cause damage to the vehicle (i.e., smashing the windshield).

The statute also specifically includes certain acts such as climbing into or onto a car regardless if the car is moving or not. However, intentionally jumping onto a vehicle would not be a crime unless the defendant intended and actually causes damage to the car such as denting the hood. Additionally, VC 10853 prohibits any attempt to “manipulate any of the levers” in order to start the car, tamper with the brakes or any attempt to “set in motion” a car that is parked and unattended.

VC 10853 – Defending

Like any criminal charge, the prosecution has the burden of proving all the required elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The most common defenses for a charge under VC 10853 include:

  • no intent
  • owner gave consent
  • mistaken identity

As mentioned, at trial, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to cause the damage to the vehicle. This is not always possible, particularly if the defendant genuinely did not intend to cause any damage. For example, the defendant may have damaged the vehicle by accident. Similarly, if the owner of the vehicle consented to the acts by the defendant, then no criminal act occurred regardless of the defendant’s intent. While this may not be a common scenario, having the owner’s consent will act as a valid defense.

Finally, as in any criminal case, the police may have arrested the wrong person, and there can be many reasons why a mistake was made, but ultimately, mistaken identity will most likely result in the charges being dismissed or an acquittal.

Malicious Mischief to a Vehicle – Hire Us

If you or a loved one is being charged with VC 10853, Mischief to a Vehicle, we invite you to contact us immediately for a free case review. Schedule an appointment to meet with us in person, or feel free to submit an evaluation online and we will get in contact with you ASAP. We can provide a free consultation in our office located in Century City, or by phone. Our experienced and assiduous Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys will be sure to fight until the end to reduce or drop your charges completely.

Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529

Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.

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How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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