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I. PC 594.3: Church Vandalism


Legal Definition:

(a) Any person who knowingly commits any act of vandalism to a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, building owned and occupied by a religious educational institution, or other places primarily used as a place of worship where religious services are regularly conducted or a cemetery is guilty of a crime punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

(b) Any person who knowingly commits any act of vandalism to a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, building owned and occupied by a religious educational institution, or other places primarily used as a place of worship where religious services are regularly conducted or a cemetery, which is shown to have been a hate crime and to have been committed for the purpose of intimidating and deterring persons from freely exercising their religious beliefs, is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

To be found guilty under PC 594.3 prosecution must prove that you:

  1. You knowingly committed an act of vandalism to a church/synagogue/building owned and occupied by a religious educational institution, or other places primarily used as a place of worship where religious services were regularly conducted.

AND (Only if under PC 594.3(b))

  2. You committed this act by reason of the race, color, religion, or national origin of an individual or group of individuals;

AND

  3. You intended to intimidate and deter persons from freely exercising religious beliefs.

II. What does this mean?


“Hate crime” means a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim:

(1) Disability.

(2) Gender.

(3) Nationality.

(4) Race or ethnicity.

(5) Religion.

(6) Sexual orientation.

(7) Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

You can vandalize something when you: (1) You maliciously deface with graffiti or with other inscribed material/damaged/destroyed real/personal property; AND (2) You did not own the property/owned the property with someone else. Someone acts maliciously when he or she intentionally does a wrongful act or when he or she acts with the unlawful intent to annoy or injure someone else.

III. Penalties


A violation under PC 594.3(a) is a misdemeanor offense. If convicted of this charge as a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to up to one year in County Jail. You would be required to serve at least 50% of that time in custody. You could also face hefty fines, including Restitution and Stay Away Orders from the location.

A violation under PC 594.3(b) is a felony offense. If convicted of this charge as a felony, you could be sentenced up to 16 months, 2, or 3 years in County Jail. You would be required to serve at least 50% of that time in custody. You could also face hefty fines, including Restitution and Stay Away Orders from the location.

This is not a strike offense under California’s Three Strikes Law. It is also not a Sex Offense requiring Sex Registration under PC 290. PC 594.3 is a crime of moral turpitude, so it would directly impact your status in Immigration Court or if you have a professional license.

IV. Common Defenses


  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Violation of Rights
  4. Necessity

If you are able to show that you did not know the place you had vandalized was a church, that can act as a defense to this charge. This crime requires knowledge that you are vandalism the church, if you think it’s some different type of building, you would only be liable for regular Vandalism under PC 594, which is a lesser offense than Church Vandalism. Failing to show that you are knowingly vandalizing a church, would mean there is insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of the charge.

V. Call Today


A criminal conviction can be devastating to a person’s life and reputation. A charge of Vandalism of a Church under PC 594.3 can land you in jail for up to 3 years, a loss of voting rights, and a loss of firearms for life. Our PC 594.3 Ontario attorney has successfully defended hundreds of criminal cases all over Southern California focusing on the Inland Empire. The initial consultation is free and we are available to answer your questions 24/7. Call the Inland Empire Criminal Defense today at 909-939-7126! Located in Ontario, CA.

Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor should it be considered the formation of a lawyer or attorney-client relationship. If you would like to find out more information about your particular legal matter, contact our office for a consultation.

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