Many people use phones, electricity, and certain utilities to receive information. To some, they are a crucial part of their daily activities. That is why it is essential to keep them active all the time. If one line fails to function, it could cause problems for many people. For example, serious emergencies may arise and go unattended, leading to severe injuries or even death. Having that in mind, you would get into serious trouble if you are found to have destroyed phones, electrical wires, and utility lines to hinder communication. If you get convicted for this crime, you risk facing severe penalties.

If you have been charged with the crime of damaging phone, electrical, or utility lines, you need to contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer immediately. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we will ensure that you get proper legal representation. You should reach out to us immediately after your arrest so that we can have enough time to look at your case and see how we can help you.

The Legal Definition of Damaging Phone, Electrical, or Utility Lines

Under penal code 591, it is an offense to intentionally obstruct, disconnect, or remove telephone cables or wires, electrical services, or equipment joined to the wires. You can be convicted for this crime, and you could face harsh punishment.

This crime carries more charges than vandalism, a crime of the same nature that is prosecuted under penal code 594. Penal code 591 has strict charges because, unlike before, people rely on phones to pass information, and some use them as part of their jobs. Another person's business and life could be ruined if you commit this offense.

Telephones and electricity are also an essential part of the emergency department. The emergency department uses them to get information on emerging emergency cases. You could put people’s lives at risk by disconnecting such wires and telephones. This crime is charged together with burglary and domestic violence.

The Elements of Penal Code 591

For you to be convicted under penal code 591 for damaging or cutting telephone, utility, and electrical lines, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:

  • That you obstructed, removed, injured, took down, or cut electrical, telegraph, telephone, television cable, or any electrical device linked to the line or

  • Destroyed a telephone line, television cable, lines used to conduct power, for a telegraph

  • Your actions were intentional and illegal

Some of the actions that could lead to your charges under penal code 591 include:

  • Taking revenge on your neighbor b cutting their cable lines

  • Destroying phone lines so that you can commit murder, abuse, burglary, assault, or battery

  • Messing with a telephone battery to hinder a person from communicating

Committing the act 'willfully' means that your actions were purpose-oriented. It does not always mean that you intended to hurt someone or go against the law. However, under penal code 591, you will still be convicted even though you did not intend to damage the electrical, telephone, and utility line. Nevertheless, you acted on purpose leading to the damage.

Acting maliciously shows that you intended to hurt the other person or act illegally. If the prosecutor cannot prove that you acted maliciously, you cannot be convicted for damaging phones and electrical lines. In California, penal code 591 does not only apply to damaging or cutting wires; it also applies to the act of damaging or disabling any electrical appliances served or joined to the wires.

Penalties under Penal Code 591

Under California law, damaging cables, electrical, or phone lines is a 'wobbler 'offense, which means that you could face a felony or misdemeanor prosecution. There are various factors that the prosecutor considers to determine your charges. These factors are:

  • The nature of your offense, your motive, the level of damage you caused in the act of the crime, and aggravating factors

  • If you have been convicted before

  • Misdemeanor penalties

If you are charged with a misdemeanor for damaging phone, electrical, and utility wires, you will face:

  • Misdemeanor probation

  • Jail sentencing of up to one year

  • Fines of up to $1000

You may also face felony consequences. If you are charged with a felony for damaging phone, electrical, and utility wires, you will face:

  • Felony probation

  • Maximum fines of $10000

  • Jail time of 16 months, two or three years

Possible Legal Defences to Penal Code 591 Charges

It can be challenging to face Penal Code 591, the damage of electrical, phone, or utility wires by yourself. An experienced and skilled defense attorney can create a strong legal defense for your case and help you attain fair results. The most common and useful legal defenses for Penal Code 591 are:

  • It was Accidental — This is among the most effective legal defenses against these offenses. As stated above, you cannot be convicted of damaging electrical, utility, or phone wires if you did not maliciously, with the motive of causing injury or harm. If you accidentally damage or cut the phone wires, you cannot be convicted under penal code 591.

  • False Allegations — If you did not physically damage, remove, injure, or destroy electrical, utility, or telephone wires, you cannot be convicted under penal code 591. In most domestic violence allegations, the victims tend to testify falsely of the crime scene's activities to get the defendant sentenced. Your defense attorney could use this defense and prove that the victim wants the defendant to be wrongly convicted for some reasons like spite or revenge.

  • You did not have any intention of damaging electrical, telephone, or utility Wire You can not be convicted under penal code 591 if you had no intention of damaging the wires, for example, to stop a person from ringing the police, regardless of whether you cut or damaged the cables.

  • You did not act maliciously — You also cannot be convicted of this offense if you did not act maliciously when cutting or destroying electrical wires.

Offenses Related to Penal Code 591

There are several related crimes to damaging or cutting electrical, utility, or phone wires. These offenses can be charged alongside or instead of penal code 591. They are:

Wiretapping (Penal code 631)

Under California penal code 631, it is illegal to wiretap or taps someone's phone line without authorization unless you are authorized law enforcement personnel. This offense is charged with a wobbler. If you have been convicted for a misdemeanor, you will pay a maximum fine of $2500 and a jail sentence of up to one year in county jail. On the other hand, if you have been convicted for a felony, you will pay a maximum fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of two or three years.

Vandalism (Penal code 594)

It is illegal to maliciously and intentionally vandalize another person's property with paintings, markings, or damaging or destroying it in California. If you caused a below $400 in the commission of the crime, you might be charged with a misdemeanor. You will pay a fine of up to $1,000 and be sentenced to one year in the county jail.
However, if you caused damage of between $400 and $10,000, you will be convicted with felony charges. In this case, you will be fined a maximum of $10,000 and sentenced up to three years.

Penal Code 243el, Domestic Battery

Under California law, domestic battery is described as touching someone in a deliberate, illegal, and harmful manner. But this applies to either your current or ex-boy/girlfriend, fiancéé, cohabitant, or your child's mother or father. This offense is charged as a criminal offense under penal code 243el, and it is convicted as a misdemeanor. If you are convicted of this offense, you may face misdemeanor probation, pay a fine of up to $2,000, and be sentenced to a maximum of six months in jail.

Penal Code 273.5, Corporal injury to your spouse or an intimate partner

Under penal code 273.5, corporal injury is defined as intentionally inflicting damage that causes a traumatic condition to your current or ex-spouse or intimate partner. Regardless of how minor the injury is, it is still counted as corporal injury. Bodily injury can also be termed as 'spousal injury,' though it touches more than just your spouse. Under penal code 273.5, this offense is charged as a wobbler. You can be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will pay a fine of up to $6000 and be sentenced to one-year jail imprisonment. If you are charged with a felony, you will pay a fine of up to $6000 and spend up to four years in state prison.

Penal code 459, Burglary

Under California law, burglary is described as the act of entering a business or residence premises to steal or commit a felony. Under penal code 459, these actions are regarded as criminal offenses even though you did not commit any of the stated acts(theft and felony acts); Entering the premises with the motive of theft is enough to have you convicted for burglary. There are two types of burglary charges. They include:

  • 1st Degree burglary This is when you enter a residence to steal or commit a felony.

  • 2nd Degree Burglary This is when you break into a business property or property.

2nd-degree burglary is considered a wobbler crime; if you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will face:

  • A summary probation

  • A fine of up to $1000

  • A one-year maximum sentence in county jail

If you are convicted with a felony, your charges will include:

  • A maximum fine of $10,000

  • County jail sentence of up to 3 years

  • Felony probation

1st-degree burglary is always considered a felony and not a wobbler. Some of the punishments for 1st degree include:

  • Fines of up to $10,000

  • The sentencing of Up to six years in state prison

  • A strike under the Three strikes in California law.

Stalking (Penal Code 649.9)

Under penal code 649.9, it is illegal to harass, threaten, or follow another person to the extent that they fear their safety. This kind of offense is considered a wobbler, and if you are charged with a misdemeanor, your charges include:

  • Counseling

  • You will be issued with restraining orders by the court on the victim's behalf.

  • A fine of up to $1,000

  • One year sentencing at the county jail

  • Summary probation

  • You will be confined to a mental illness center in California.

On the other hand, if you are convicted of a felony, your charges will include:

  • Counseling

  • You may be issued with restraining orders by the court on the victim's behalf.

  • The sentencing of up to one year in jail

  • Formal probation

  • The sentencing of up to five years in state prison

  • You may also face harassment laws and

  • ‘Possible sex offenders registration according to CA penal code 290

  • You may also be confined to a mental institution that operates in California.

In the case of sexual and non-sexual harassment, the victim's employer will be notified and expected to respond within a short time. If the employer takes appropriate actions, you (the victim)can not sue him/her. But the victim has power over his/her harasser. If your employer fails to appropriately respond to the allegations, he/she can be held responsible for failing to handle the allegations appropriately.

Stand-alone Hate Crimes (Penal Code 422.6)

Under penal code 422.6, hate crimes are described as committing a crime against an individual, motivated by the different characteristics they have from you. For example, commit a crime to a person because of :

  • His/her race or ethnicity or

  • Religion

  • Nationality

  • Disability

  • Gender

  • Sexual orientation

  • His/her engagement with a person with the same characteristics.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor under penal code 422.6, you will face the following:

  • 400 hours of community service

  • Summary probation

  • Maximum sentencing of one year in jail

  • Maxim fines of $5,000

Penalties found under penal code 422.7 and 422.75 are sentence enhancements, and the court can decide to enhance your conviction to a felony.

Suppose you are convicted of a hate crime misdemeanor; the charges are wobbler. It means that depending on various factors like your case's circumstances and your criminal history, you can be charged with a felony. If you are convicted with a felony charge, you will face:

  • Maximum fines of $10,000

  • Formal probation

  • The sentencing of up to three years in prison

  • Your penalties could also be enhanced to up to three years in prison.

Intimidating a Witness (Penal Code 136.1)

This offense is described as preventing a victim or witness from testifying against a crime. It is considered a severe crime under CA. Penal code 136.1. Even if you did not successfully discourage or prevent the witness, the attempt to threaten the victim is enough for you to be convicted. It does not also matter if no harm was caused.

This offense is considered a wobbler. However, you will automatically be charged with a felony if:

  • If you intimidated the victim using threatening violence against them.

  • If your actions were part of a giant conspiracy

  • If you have a criminal history of the same offense or related offenses

  • If someone hired you to commit the crime

If you are charged with a misdemeanor for intimidating a victim, you will face:

  • Maximum of one-year imprisonment in county jail

  • Fines of up to $1,000

  • Assessments and penalties

  • You will also be banned from owning or purchasing a firearm for ten years.

If you have been charged with a felony, you will face:

  1. Imprisonment of up to four years in state prison

  2. Lifetime ban from buying or owning a firearm

  3. Substantial fines

Elder Abuse (Penal Code 368)

This offense is described as the neglect, emotional or physical abuse, or financial neglect of a person above 65years. This crime can be charged as a misdemeanor and a felony. For example:

  • Failing to feed an old parent who cannot take care of him/herself

  • Ridiculing an older adult for using a wheelchair

  • Using fraud to convince an older person to make you the sole beneficiary in their will

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, you will receive one-year imprisonment in the county jail. On the other hand, if convicted of a felony, you will be sentenced to up to four years in state prison. During your jail time, the judge can award you with formal probation or summary probation.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Cutting or damaging phone, electrical or utility lines is a serious crime that has severe penalties. If you are currently facing charges for this offense, contact a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we have qualified attorneys experienced in handling similar crimes. We will create a strong defense for your case that could possibly have your charges reduced or completely withdrawn. Contact us today at 310-502-1314 and book a free and confidential consultation.