Criminal Law

2902. Damaging Phone or Electrical Line

The defendant is charged [in Count ______] with (taking down[,]/ [or] removing [,]/ [or] damaging[,]/ [or] obstructing/severing/ making an unauthorized connection to) a (telegraph/telephone/ cable television/electrical) line.

To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:

<Alternative 1A—removed, damaged, or obstructed>

[1. The defendant unlawfully (took down[,]/ [or] removed[,]/ [or] damaged[,]/ [or] obstructed) [part of] a (telegraph/ telephone/cable television/electrical) line [or mechanical equipment connected to the line];]

<Alternative 1B—severed>

1. The defendant unlawfully severed a wire of a (telegraph/ telephone/cable television/electrical) line;]

<Alternative 1C—unauthorized connection>

[1. The defendant unlawfully made an unauthorized connection with [part of] a line used to conduct electricity [or mechanical equipment connected to the line];]


2. The defendant did so maliciously.

Someone acts maliciously when he or she intentionally does a wrongful act or when he or she acts with the unlawful intent to annoy or injure someone else.

[As used here, mechanical equipment includes a telephone.]

Bench Notes

Instructional Duty

The court has a sua sponte duty to give this instruction defining the elements of the crime.

The statute uses the term "injure." (Pen. Code, § 591.) The committee has replaced the word "injure" with the word "damage" because the word "injure" generally refers to harm to a person rather than to property.

The statute uses the phrase "appurtenances or apparatus." (Pen. Code, § 591.) The committee has chosen to use the more understandable "mechanical equipment" in place of this phrase.

Give the bracketed sentence that states "mechanical equipment includes a telephone" on request. (People v. Tafoya (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 220, 227 [111 Cal.Rptr.2d 681]; People v. Kreiling (1968) 259 Cal.App.2d 699, 704 [66 Cal.Rptr. 582].)


Elements. Pen. Code, § 591.

Maliciously Defined. Pen. Code, § 7, subd. 4; People v. Lopez (1986) 176 Cal.App.3d 545, 550 [222 Cal.Rptr. 101].

Applies to Damage to Telephone. People v. Tafoya (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 220, 227; People v. Kreiling (1968) 259 Cal.App.2d 699, 704 [66 Cal.Rptr. 582].

"Obstruct" Not Unconstitutionally Vague. Kreiling v. Field (9th Cir. 1970) 431 F.2d 502, 504.

Applies to Theft of Service. People v. Trieber (1946) 28 Cal.2d 657, 661 [171 P.2d 1].

Seconday Sources

2 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Crimes Against Property, § 258.

(New January 2006)