Vandalizing a Place of Worship

Vandalizing a Place of Worship

California lawmakers don’t care if you were simply bored and decided adding some graffiti to a church wall would make life more interesting, if you were angry and knocked over some headstones in a local cemetery, or if you disagree with a particular religion and took out your frustration on the property. If you knowingly damage a place that’s legally recognized as a place of worship or a cemetery, you violate California Penal Code 594.3 PC.

Penal Code 594.3 PC clearly states that: “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 another place primarily used as a place of worship where religious services are regularly conducted or a cemetery is guilty of a crime.”
 
It’s important to understand that California lawmakers not only consider churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues to be places of worship but also include both cemeteries/graveyards and any other building that is either knowingly occupied or used by a religious institution to be a place of worship.
 
Like so many of California’s laws, PC 594.3 is one of the state’s wobbler laws. This means that the details surrounding the case determine whether you face misdemeanor or felony charges. Most of the time the intent behind the vandalism as well as the amount of damage done to the place of worship are the determining factors in how you’re charged.
 
A guilty conviction of misdemeanor vandalism of a place of worship means a maximum sentence of twelve months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The maximum sentence for a felony PC 594.3 conviction is three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In both misdemeanor and felony cases, the judge will likely order you to make restitution which means you’ll have to reimburse the religious organization for the damage you’ve done.
 
Vandalizing a place of worship already has severe consequences but things go from bad to worse if the court decides that the act of vandalism was also a hate crime. If you’re convicted of a hate crime the maximum sentence for vandalizing a place of worship includes longer periods of imprisonment, larger fines, and a great deal of public disdain.
 
The best way to avoid being potentially charged with vandalizing a place of worship in California is making sure that you’re on your best behavior whenever you’re on or near a religious property.

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The Unlawful Taking of Pictures and Video Recording

The Unlawful Taking of Pictures and Video Recording

Thanks to built-in cameras on smartphones, most of us have a camera at our disposal 24/7. We’re able to record everything. We use the phone camera for selfies, points of interest, and to record the actions of others. We’ve grown so accustomed to taking photos and videos of everything that we rarely stop and think about the fact that there are certain times, places, and situations when taking pictures and video recordings is actually against the law.

Learning that there are cases where a person has broken the law with videos or photos they’ve snapped can make you have second thoughts about using your camera. The good news is that the odds are pretty good that you’re not going to record anything that will break the law. Both federal and California laws are written in a manner that allows you to legally take a photo of anything that’s plainly visible. You’ll be pleased to learn that this includes federal buildings and even police officers who are working.

You’re also legally allowed to take photos and videos of things that can be seen from public property. For example, as long as you can do so from the road, you’re allowed to photograph an interesting-looking barn. 

If you’re on private property, the property owners get to make rules about what you can and can’t take photos/videos of. For example, if snapping a few shots of the barn requires you to walk across a private hayfield and jumping a fence, the property owners could insist that you destroy the images and also file trespassing charges against you. The same is true if you walk up to someone’s house and start snapping pictures or videos through their windows. You’re not legally allowed to take photos or videos of a person (or their belongings) if the property owner had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

If you’re caught taking photos or videos in an area where the property owner had a reasonable expectation of privacy, they can file invasion of privacy charges as well as trespassing charges against you. If you’re convicted of invasion of privacy, the judge could sentence you to up to six months in a county jail and order you to pay a fine of $1,000. If this isn’t the first time you’ve been convicted of invasion of privacy, the sentence could double.

The best way to avoid getting into trouble while you shooting pictures or videos is to make sure you’re feet are always firmly planted on public property.

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