Graffiti

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What is graffiti?

In the ACT, there is no specific definition of ‘graffiti’, but it generally includes making marks on a wall, building, bus shelter, or a private or public space.

IMPORTANT: In the ACT, the laws that apply to putting up a poster or a sign on a building or public space without proper permission is the same as the laws that apply to creating graffiti.

Is graffiti illegal?

It depends. It is possible to create graffiti legally. For example, if you have the consent of the owner or it is a space designated as a legal graffiti site.  A list of legal graffiti sites can be found here.  

  • But, it is against the law if you create graffiti:
    on any public property, like a public road, a bus shelter or any other property of the government or a government authority that is not a legal graffiti site; or
  • on any private property without permission from the owner or the person who is using the property.

Is it against the law to buy spray paint?

No.

Is it against the law to have spray paint or markers?

No.

Can I be stopped and searched for graffiti tools?

Generally, the police will not be able to search you for graffiti tools just because they think you  have done, or will do illegal graffiti.  For more about police powers to search people, see “The police have come up to me and asked to search me and my belongings. Are they allowed to do this?

Can the police confiscate something they think I will use to make graffiti?

Generally, the police will not have the power to confiscate graffiti tools.  For more about police powers to confiscate things, see “The police have taken my stuff. Can they do this?”.  

What happens if I’ve been caught making illegal graffiti by the police?

If you are under 18, the police may:

  • Give you a formal caution (a recorded warning not to do it again);  
  • Give you the choice to attend conferencing, where the police and others meet with you to discuss the crime and its consequences.  The group agrees on the most appropriate outcome. You can only choose this if you admit to the offence.
  • Charge you.  This means you will have to go to court.

For more information about cautions, conferences and being charged with an offence, see our page “Youth Justice” and “Criminal Law”.

What are the penalties for graffiti crimes?

If you are charged and found guilty by a court for a graffiti crime, the court can:

  • fine you (there is a maximum fine of $1,000).
  • put you on a good behaviour order (where you sign something to say you promise to be on good behaviour for at least one year and may have to perform community service, like removing the graffiti);  
  • send you to a restorative justice conference to  negotiate a restorative justice agreement for you, containing measures intended to repair the harm caused by the graffiti; or
  • send you to juvenile detention (in exceptional cases, such as if you have been found guilty of graffiti crimes many times and the court thinks you are likely to do it again).

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