Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Appeals Court Approves Aggregating Vandalism Claims
By a MetNews Staff Writer
When a defendant vandalizes the property of several individuals in a single incident, the damages may be aggregated in order to charge the defendant with a felony, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.
In what Justice Nora Manella said was a case of first impression, Div. Four affirmed Manuel Jesus Carrasco’s felony vandalism conviction. A Los Angeles Superior Court jury found Carrasco guilty of that charge after prosecutors charged he caused damage costing $400 or more when he threw a statue through the front window of his mother’s house, then broke the windows of her car.
Judge Mike Camacho sentenced him to three years, four months in prison after he admitted two prior convictions, for which enhancements were imposed.
On appeal, the defense did not challenge the factual underpinnings of the conviction, but argued that because the house belonged to Carrasco’s father, and because neither the house nor the car suffered $400 in damages, the defendant should have been convicted of two misdemeanors rather than a felony.
Manella, however, cited In re Arthur V. (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 61, in which the court held that the $400 threshold was met when the defendant caused $150 in damage to the victim’s windshield, then kicked him, causing him to drop his cell phone, resulting in another $350 worth of damage.
While Arthur V. involved a single victim, Manella explained, its rationale applies to a crime committed against multiple victims but resulting from “a single general impulse, intention or plan.”
The vandalism statute, Penal Code Sec. 594, “does not distinguish between vandalism resulting in damage to the property of a single victim or multiple victims,” the jurist noted. “It simply provides that a defendant is guilty of vandalism if he or she defaces, damages, or destroys ‘real or personal property not his or her own.’”
Having reached that conclusion, the justice went on to say that the trial judge did not err by denying the defense an instruction on misdemeanor vandalism as a lesser offense, and instead instructing jurors to make a specific finding as to the amount of damage.
That approach has been approved by the Judicial Council in the Bench Notes for CALCRIM No. 2900, the standard vandalism instruction that Camacho gave without objection, Manella explained.
The justice also rejected the contention that the instruction as given might have misled jurors into believing that they could convict the defendant on the single charge even if the attacks on the house and the car arose from separate impulses or plans.
Attorneys on appeal were Gerald Peters, by appointment, for the defendant and Deputy Attorneys General Victoria B. Wilson and Erika D. Jackson for the prosecution.
The case is People v. Carrasco, B23691.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company