On New Year’s Day, residents of Hollywood were surprised to discover that the iconic “Hollywood” sign had been changed to read “Hollyweed.” Police had since been investigating the prank, and last Monday, the alleged prankster turned himself in. Accompanied by his lawyer, Zachary Cole Fernandez turned himself in at the Hollywood station and was subsequently arrested on charges of trespassing. His bail was set at $1,000, which he paid and was released a few hours afterward.
Trespassing is covered under California Penal Code 602 PC and is described as entering or remaining on someone else’s property without permission or the right to do so. Trespassing is typically charged as a misdemeanor, unless the suspect also threatens to physically injure someone and then enters their property without permission. In cases like these, the suspect may instead be charged with aggravated trespass, a felony, under California Penal Code 601 PC.
When charged as a misdemeanor, Penal Code 602 PC carries the possible penalties of summary probation, up to 6 months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Fernandez had confessed to the crime before Monday during an interview with Vice. In the interview, he stated that he and his ex-wife had used sheets of fabric to alter the sign. They then attached a variety of photographs to the fabric, including pictures of hearts and peace signs. In giving the interview, Fernandez was informed that he would open himself up to possible criminal charges, to which he replied “We’re OK with that.”
According to Fernandez, the prank was an homage to Daniel Finegood, a student at CSUN who pulled off the same thing back in 1976. The original prank was done to commemorate the first day that California reclassified possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor. The couple claimed that the prank was intended to bring about a conversation regarding positivity, and are fairly certain that it did so. Law enforcement, though, regard these pranks, however harmless, as unnecessary depletion of public safety personnel.