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A 52-year-old man who painted a crosswalk on a city street apparently crossed a line he shouldn't have. But according to him, it was all in the name of safety.
Anthony Cardenas of Vallejo, California, said he thought a busy intersection with three crosswalks needed a fourth. So, he actually created his own by using white spray paint, even adding zebra stripes to his crosswalk -- and to the three others nearby.
What happened next did not go according to Cardenas' plan.
Instead of heaping praise on Cardenas' public-service art project, Vallejo police arrived on scene and told people not to use the unauthorized crosswalk, the Bay Area's KNTV reports.
Then street crews arrived and painted over the makeshift crosswalk. And Cardenas was arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism.
Vandalism is a broad category that is used to describe a number of crimes. In general, the legal definition includes any intentional behavior that results in destroying, defacing, or altering property that belongs to another.
This includes acts like egging another person's car, slashing someone's tires, spray painting trees at a park, and, yes, even painting your own makeshift crosswalk on a busy street intersection.
Regardless of one's intentions, altruistic or not, there generally are no legitimate defenses to vandalism once the act has been completed.
Defenses to vandalism, in fact, exist mostly to soften the blow of the penalties. An accident or creative expression, for example, are two examples that might lead to mitigated punishments. If Cardenas has a chance at anything, maybe the concern he had for his neighborhood could hold some sway.
So what should Cardenas have done to get a new crosswalk, without having to paint it himself?
The proper protocol typically depends on where you live. A good place to start is to contact your local Department of Public Works, or a similar government agency, and see where to go from there. It may be as easy as talking to the right person, or it may involve petitioning your local lawmakers.
One thing is for sure, however: It's probably best not to make any plans to spray-paint your own crosswalk, or you could be headed down the road to a potential felony conviction.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.