In her song, Before He Cheats, Carrie Underwood decided to teach her cheating lover a lesson by destroying his beloved truck. Underwood’s song ends before the consequences of her actions catch up to her. If the song were real life, her actions would have landed her in hot legal water. She would likely have spent some time in jail.
In California, Underwood’s actions in the song would likely result in her facing charges of malicious mischief to a vehicle and vandalism.
If the character in Underwood’s song did something to manipulate the vehicle, such as deliberately putting it into neutral so that it would roll down a hill and smash into a tree, she would be guilty of violating Vehicle Code 10853 VC.
The law states that:
“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.”
California lawmakers consider malicious mischief of a vehicle to be a misdemeanor but don’t let the fact that it’s not a felony fool you into thinking the consequences won’t be severe. If convicted, you could face spending the next 6 years in a county jail and/or be required to pay a $1,000 fine. Likely, you’ll also have to pay to restore the vehicle to its former state.
In addition to the malicious mischief to a vehicle charge, you’ll also likely be charged with vandalism.
Vandalism in California is one of the state’s wobbler crimes. If the total amount of your actions only resulted in $400 or less worth of damage, you face misdemeanor charges. If your actions exceeded $400, you’re facing felony charges.
The maximum sentence you face if convicted of misdemeanor vandalism is a $1,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail. The potential fine can go as high as $5,000 if you have prior vandalism charges on your record. If you’re convicted of felony vandalism, you could spend a year in a county jail and face a fine of up to $10,000.
Considering the legal consequences of destroying the vehicle of someone you’re mad at, it’s in your best interest to find a better and less illegal way to express your anger.