Mountainview Elementary School in Saugus was vandalized last week by unknown suspects. The break-in appears to have occurred overnight, during which the suspects destroyed the school’s computer lab, toppled bookcases in the library, smashed televisions and ripped screens from various classroom windows.
As staff moved around the building surveying damage, they discovered that the library had been ransacked, but nothing appeared to be missing or broken. However, the school’s computer lab suffered the worst damage. The suspects poured liquid onto keyboards, smashed and threw computer monitors about the room, as well as destroying a new flat screen television. The school’s wireless mainframe was also destroyed, leaving it without telephone or internet service.
Vandalism is covered under California Penal Code 594 PC and is described as damaging or destroying or defacing with graffiti someone else’s property. Some obvious examples of vandalism are smashing mailboxes, breaking windows or writing on the bathroom wall at a grocery store. However, vandalism isn’t as cut and dry as it might seem. It’s possible to be charged with vandalism for writing your name in wet cement on a city sidewalk, or, during a fight, smashing dishware that you and your partner own together.
The penalties for vandalism depend primarily on the dollar amount of the damage done. If the damage is worth less than $400, the crime of vandalism is charged as a misdemeanor which carries the possible penalties of up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If the damage is valued at more than $400, the charge becomes a “wobbler,” meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged as a felony, the possible penalties are significantly increased. They include up to 3 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. If the cost of the damage is $10,000 or more, the maximum fine is increased to $50,000.