Damaging Electrical or Phone Lines is a Criminal Offense

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Damaging Electrical or Phone Lines is a Criminal Offense

In California damaging electrical or phone lines belonging to somebody else is a serious crime. Frequently the crime of damaging cable, phone, or TV lines are associated with domestic disputes. Although this crime is considered a misdemeanor, certain circumstances make it a felony.

Penal Code for Damaging Electrical or Phone Lines

Under California Penal Code Section 591 PC, “a person who unlawfully and maliciously takes down, removes, injures, or obstructs any line of telegraph, telephone, or cable television, or any other line used to conduct electricity, or any part thereof, or appurtenances or apparatus connected therewith, or severs any wire thereof, or makes any unauthorized connection with any line, other than a telegraph, telephone, or cable television line, used to conduct electricity, or any part thereof, or appurtenances or apparatus connected therewith, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500), or imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year.”

Cases of Damaging Electrical or Phone Lines

One domestic violence case involved an angry person who deliberated cut their estranged spouse’s phone line then forcefully gained access to the home and committed other acts of domestic violence.

A less violent case involved a man removing the battery from his former wife’s cordless phone during an argument. He was found guilty under California Penal Code Section 591 PC.

Both cases involved phone lines being disabled, leaving their alleged victims unable to call to get help.

Other acts involving damaging electrical or phone lines are instances of damage committed in the effort to unlawfully acquire electricity or trying to steal somebody’s else’s cable television services.

To Prove Guilt in Damaging Electrical or Phone Lines

In order to prove a defendant’s guilt, a prosecutor must establish the following:

  1. The defendant:
    • Unlawfully damaged, obstructed, took down, or removed, cable, telephone, electrical or mechanical equipment that was connected to the line.
    • Unlawfully severed cable, electrical, or telephone lines
    • OR Unlawfully connected to a line used to conduct electricity of used mechanical equipment to connect to it without authorization
  2. AND the defendant’s intent was malicious

A telephone is an example of mechanical equipment. A malicious act is when somebody intentionally does something with the unlawful intent to injure or annoy another person.

Penalties for Damaging Electrical or Phone Lines

Damaging electrical or phone lines or equipment is considered a “wobbler,” which means it can either be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. When deciding which, the prosecutor will review factors such as any criminal history, the extent of damage, and the reason for the defendant’s actions.

If the decision is to file it as a misdemeanor, a defendant may be sentenced up to a year in jail plus fines and restitution. If filed as a felony, the sentence may be up to a three years in prison.

Damaging electrical or phone lines that people rely on for functioning phones in order to remain connected to emergency response services is a serious crime that could result in death.

If you have been arrested and are facing criminal charges for damaging electrical or phone lines or equipment, you need the expert legal advice of a criminal defense attorney such as Sevens Legal, APC. Contact Sevens Legal, APC, today for a free consultation.

Sevens Legal, APC
Criminal Defense Attorneys
3555 4th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
Phone: (619) 297-2800

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