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Malicious Mischief to a Vehicle - Vehicle Code 10853 VC

Posted by Sam Israels | Aug 19, 2023

In California, entering someone's vehicle or climbing on it without permission to tamper with the controls or to cause damage is a crime. It's codified under Vehicle Code 10853 VC and called malicious mischief to a vehicle.

Vehicle Code 10853 VC - Malicious Mischief to a Vehicle
It a misdemeanor crime under Vehicle Code 10853 VC to commit any malicious mischief on a vehicle.

This statute applies to vehicles and anything attached to it, such as license plates, hood ornaments, and side mirrors, meaning you could be convicted of “malicious mischief” if you attempt to damage any parts of the car.

Vehicle Code 10853 VC says, “No person shall, with intent to commit any malicious mischief, injury, or other crime, climb into or upon a vehicle whether it is in motion or at rest, nor shall any person attempt to manipulate any of the levers, starting mechanism, brakes, or other mechanism or device of a vehicle while the same is at rest and unattended, nor shall any person set in motion any vehicle while the same is at rest and unattended.”

A prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt, to obtain a conviction.

They must show that you climbed into or on the vehicle in motion or parked and then attempted to tamper with the controls, levers, starting mechanism, brakes, or other parts, intending to commit malicious mischief.

If you are convicted of violating this law, you face up to six months the county jail. Let's take a closer look at this statute below.

VC 10853 - Explained

The term “malicious mischief” is described as defacing, damaging, or destroying another person's property without their consent.

Thus, Vehicle Code 10853 VC prohibits any of the following acts when you intend to commit malicious mischief, injury, or other crimes:

  • Climbing in or onto another person's car;
  • Attempting to manipulate the levers, brakes, starter, etc.;
  • Set the vehicle in motion while it's parked and unattended.

Notably, it's not required that you damage or deface the vehicle to be arrested and convicted under this statute; instead, it only must be proven that you intended to cause damage. As noted, this law applies to anything attached to the vehicle, such as rear-view mirrors.

What Are the Related Laws?

Several California laws are related to Vehicle Code 10853 VC, meaning they could be filed in addition to, or instead of, malicious mischief to vehicle charges, such as the following:  

  • Vehicle Code 10852 VC tampering with or damaging a vehicle without the owner's consent also includes the car parts;  
  • Vehicle Code 10851 VC unauthorized use of a vehicle (joyriding) is described as taking a car without the owner's consent and is a wobbler that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony;
  • Penal Code 594 PC vandalism means maliciously defacing or damaging property, including a vehicle and parts;
  • Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC grand theft auto is described as taking someone's vehicle that is worth $950 or more;
  • Penal Code 459 PC auto burglary is described as entering a locked vehicle or the trunk intending to steal the car or property inside it or commit a felony crime once inside, which is a second-degree burglary.

What Are the VC 10851 Penalties?

Suppose you are convicted of VC 10851 malicious mischief to a vehicle. In that case, it's a misdemeanor that carries the following penalties:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and
  • fines of up to $1,000.

Notably, the judge has the discretion to impose summary probation instead of jail time.

What Are the Defenses Against VC 10853?

If you were charged with malicious mischief to a vehicle, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys could use different strategies to counter the charges, as discussed below.

Defenses for Malicious Mischief to a Vehicle
Contact our law firm for legal advice.

Maybe we can argue that there was no malicious intent. As noted, to convict you, prosecutors must prove the crucial element of intent, which is often tricky and a frequent target for legal counsel.

Maybe we can show this was not your intent or cast a reasonable doubt, which could result in reduced charges or a case dismissal.

Maybe we can argue that you had the owner's consent, another crucial factor that must be proven. Perhaps the car owner knew you would enter their vehicle and gave permission. In that case, you should be able to avoid a malicious mischief conviction.

Maybe we can negotiate with the prosecutor prefiling for lesser charges, get the case dropped, or avoid formal charges. Contact us for a free case evaluation via phone or the contact form.

You can contact our law firm for a review of the case details by phone or using the contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark have offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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