Houman Fakhimi

Santa Ana Man Arrested After $10,000 in Damage Caused to Church

A 30-year-old man was recently arrested after police allege he was involved in damage done to a Catholic church last year, The Orange County Register reports.

Santa Ana vandalism charges can lead to serious penalties if a person is convicted. In many cases, vandalism charges require an experienced juvenile defense in Orange County. But there are times when adults are charged with these crimes as well.

And the severity of the charges can depend on how much damage is done in the case. In minor cases, a person may be faced with a misdemeanor charge that could end up dropped or turned into a successful plea deal. But if the damage is major, injuries are caused or other factors exist, the defendant could face a felony.

In this situation, a 30-year-old man from Santa Ana faces charges that he broke into a church in Tustin and caused $10,000 of damage. He now faces charges of second-degree burglary and felony vandalism of religious property.

The man is accused of breaking into the church and destroying statues, religious objects and other things to the tune of $10,000. This happened on July 12, 2011. The church and an accompanying school were vandalized in the process, the newspaper reports.

An American flag was put in a trash can, framed pictures were smashed and religious materials and crosses were destroyed. Police say they found evidence at the scene that connected them to the man's house. The article doesn't make clear what the evidence is.

Burglary is obviously a serious crime. It includes breaking into a vehicle, business or house and taking property that doesn't belong to the suspect. In cases where a person is inside the dwelling at the time, the charges can be enhanced. If a weapon is found or was used to break in, the suspect can also face enhanced penalties. So, it's important to fight these charges aggressively.

Unique about this case, however, is that the man faces an enhanced charge related to vandalizing a church. California Penal Code 594.3 states that a person who vandalizes a church, mosque, synagogue, temple or any other religious-based building could face either a misdemeanor or a felony. They can face a charge classified as a hate crime if prosecutors can show their actions were meant to intimidate people from freely worshiping or exercising religious freedom.

If prosecutors attempt to show the person's actions are akin to a hate crime, it can make their lives much more difficult. Facing one felony is tough enough, but adding a second felony amidst allegations that the charge is a hate crime is even more difficult. Hate crimes aren't taken lightly by prosecutors, but filing these charges is a major deal.

Given the attention that so-called "hate crimes" have gotten in the news media over the years, charging a person is a big step. These types of charges can really do damage to a person's reputation, so the state must have solid proof before filing these charges. On the flip side, a defendant has every right to dispute these charges and make the state prove them beyond all reasonable doubt.