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Name: People v. LaDuke
Case #: D072597
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 12/14/2018
Summary

The crime of vandalism of a religious educational institution includes not only acts which affect the structure of the building, but also damage to personal property located on the real property related to the building. LaDuke set fire to a sign in front of a religious university. The sign bore a crucifix and the words “John Paul the Great Catholic University.” LaDuke was convicted of vandalism of a religious educational institution (Pen. Code, § 594.3, subd. (a)) and other offenses. On appeal, he argued the evidence was insufficient because the statute protects only “building[s]” and the sign was not a building. Held: Affirmed. Penal Code section 594.3, subdivision (a) in part prohibits any person from knowingly committing any act of vandalism to a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or “building owned and occupied by a religious educational institution.” It does not define the word “building.” As used in the statute, that word is susceptible of more than one meaning. Two reasonable interpretations are: (1) a structure that has four walls and a roof and is occupied, or (2) any structure or thing built and any fixtures attached thereto. If statutory language is ambiguous, the courts look to extrinsic aids to interpret the statute, including the statutory scheme. The word “vandalism” is defined in section 594 as the malicious act of defacing, damaging, or destroying any real or personal property not belonging to the defendant. The use of the word “vandalism” in section 594.3 reflects the Legislature’s intent to prohibit damage to personal property located on the same real property as, and related to, the building. In addition, the broader reading of the word furthers the legislative purpose of the statute, which was to protect individuals exercising their religious beliefs. The religious institution’s sign was either personal property or a fixture located on or attached to the real property and therefore could reasonably be found to be part of the “building” owned and occupied by the University.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/D072597.PDF