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What is graffiti?

Graffiti is damaging or making a mark on property, such as buildings, poles or vehicles. It can include spraying, writing, drawing, marking, scratching or etching on any property with a spray can or marker pen.

Is graffiti illegal?

It is possible to create graffiti legally.  For example, if you have permission from the owner or it is a space designated as a legal graffiti space.  Check with your local council about these spaces.

However, if you don’t have permission from the property owner or your local council, it is against the law to create graffiti on a person’s property, on public property, or on something that is visible to the public.

Can I buy spray paint?

If you are under 18, it is against the law for anyone to sell a spray can to you. If they do, they may face a fine. This means that a shop assistant can ask you for identification to prove you are over 18 if you want to buy spray paint. If you cannot prove you are over 18 with identification, the shop assistant may refuse to sell you spray paint.

Can I carry a graffiti tool?

Graffiti tools include spray paint cans, or anything used to make an etching, like a pocket knife or a nail.

It is against the law to have any graffiti tool that has been used for illegal graffiti or that the police think was or will be used for illegal graffiti.

Can I be stopped and searched for graffiti tools?

Yes, but only if the police reasonably think you have a graffiti tool that has been or will be used for illegal graffiti. If the police think you have a graffiti tool, they may ask you to explain why you have it. If you don’t give a good enough reason, the police may charge you with having a graffiti implement.  Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld) s 634(2)(d), (3).

For more information about police searches, see our page on “What powers do the police have”.

Can the police confiscate a graffiti tool?

Yes, but only in certain circumstances. Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld) s 29(2).

If you are under 18 and have a graffiti tool, such as a spray can, the police can take it from you if they have reason to think that you have either used it or are using it for graffiti, or will use it for graffiti.

For all other graffiti tools, the normal rules for police confiscations will apply.  For more information, look at our page on “What powers do the police have”.

What happens if I’ve been caught by the police making illegal graffiti or illegally carrying a graffiti tool?

If you are under 17, the police may:

  1. Take the graffiti tool from you (see more on this above);
  2. Give you a caution;
  3. Refer you to a youth justice conference;
  4. Charge you (this means you will have to go to court); or
  5. Give you the opportunity to attend a graffiti removal program if you admit to doing illegal graffiti.

For more information about being charged by the police and about cautions, see our pages on “Criminal Law” and “Youth Justice System”.

What are the penalties for graffiti crimes?

If you are charged for making illegal graffiti or illegally carrying a graffiti tool and you are then found guilty at court, depending on the case, a court can:

  1. a) Give you a warning not to do it again;
  2. c) Order you to pay compensation (money) for the cost of repairing the damage you have caused by the graffiti;
  3. d) Make you to perform community service work such as cleaning up the graffiti;
  4. e) Make you to attend Youth Justice Conferencing;
  5. f) Give you a fine. The amount of the fine will depend on the circumstances;  
  6. g) Send you to a youth detention centre for up to one year. This will be a last resort and will only happen if you have been in trouble with the police multiple times.

If you have been charged and found guilty of a graffiti crime and you were at least 12 years old when the crime was done, the court must make a ‘graffiti removal order’. The number of hours you need to spend removing the graffiti will depend on your age.

For more information about these penalties and what happens at court see our web pages on “Youth Justice System” and “Courtstuff.”

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