Destruction of Property and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a complex crime that includes many different kinds of offenses. Though the typical example of domestic violence is a partner physically harming their partner, domestic violence comes in many other forms. Some people are surprised to learn that destruction of property can be considered domestic violence under certain circumstances. Destructive acts that aren’t directed toward the victim him or herself can still be considered domestic violence. For example, slashing your ex’s tires in his or her driveway can be considered destruction of property. Though it may not result in a domestic violence criminal charge, it can result in a criminal charge and a domestic violence restraining order.

Domestic violence is a very specific offense comprised of a number of actions against a certain individual. Under California law, domestic violence is defined as abuse or threats of abuse toward a person whom the abuser is in or has been in an intimate relationship with. This can be a past or present spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, partner, or cohabitant, the parent of your child, or someone you are closely related to through blood or marriage. Abuse is broadly defined to include physically hurting someone, sexually assaulting them, making them fear for their safety, or violent or destructive behavior such as stalking the person, disturbing their peace, or destroying their property.

Arguably a victimless crime, destroying property can be used as a controlling action in domestic violence scenarios. But destruction of property is typically a vandalism crime. Vandalism is punishable by jail time and heavy fines. Vandalism can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the property vandalized and the damage done. As with many property crimes, the district attorney must prove you knowingly and willingly damaged or destroyed someone else’s property without his or her consent. This applies even if you jointly own the property with someone else. This is a common occurrence in domestic violence disputes. Such an incident can result in both vandalism and domestic violence charges being brought against you.

To be charged with a domestic violence crime, the violence must be directed toward the victim, not just his or her property. If the property you destroyed could have harmed the victim, you may face domestic violence charges. For example, if you cut the victim’s brake lines or threw a valuable sculpture toward the victim to harm him or her, you could face domestic violence charges and possibly vandalism charges. To be charged with corporal injury on a spouse or spousal battery, however, you must have inflicted or attempted to inflict harm on the victim. These are California’s two main domestic violence crimes. Note that even if you didn’t actually touch or attempt to touch the victim, you could still be charged with vandalism or even disturbing the peace for destruction of property. The victim may still be able to have the court issue a domestic violence restraining order to restrain you from contacting the victim, the victim’s family, or otherwise harassing the victim. Destroying property can be seen as harassment. And, if you violate a domestic violence restraining order, you could face additional criminal charges.

Speak with an experienced California domestic violence defense attorney about your case if you are facing domestic violence, vandalism, or disturbing the peace charges for an incident that involved someone whom you have been in or are in an intimate relationship with. Domestic violence charges are very serious and can affect your life in many ways. For example, you could lose your gun rights and be prohibited from certain professional licenses. It is worth your time to at least consult with an attorney about your options. The district attorney must prove you knowingly and willingly destroyed someone else’s property without his or her permission to be charged with vandalism. A skilled attorney can help challenge such an accusation, and this could result in your charges being dropped. If your case involves domestic violence, you could face additional criminal charges if you directed violence at someone whom you were or are in an intimate relationship with. When facing such serious charges, it is important you have an advocate in your corner defending your rights.

If you are facing domestic violence charges in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area, call experienced domestic violence defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can take swift action in your case to ensure your rights are protected. Attorney Martens has over ten years of criminal defense experience and will fight hard for your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.