Graffiti

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What is graffiti?

Graffiti is when you damage the appearance of a property in any way, including by writing, drawing,  marking, scratching, etching or posting something on any property (for example, a building, a pole or a vehicle).

Is graffiti illegal?

It is possible to create graffiti legally. For example, if it is on private property and you have the permission of the owner or it is a legal graffiti space. Check with your local council about legal graffiti spaces.

Graffiti is against the law when you do not have permission to do it from either the owner of the property or the local council.   It is also against the law to graffiti on public transport in the Adelaide area (usually run by Adelaide Metro) and its premises (such as a train station or bus stop).

It is also against the law to help, assist or encourage someone else to do graffiti.  The penalty for helping or encouraging someone else to do graffiti is the same as the penalty for actually doing it yourself.

Can I buy spray paint?

If you are under 18, it is against the law for anyone to sell you a spray paint can.. 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 can’t prove you are 18, the shop assistant may refuse to sell you spray paint.

Can I carry a graffiti tool?

It is not against the law to carry graffiti tools (like a spray paint can or marker) if you can prove that you have a lawful reason. For example, if you need it for your job. It is against the law to carry any graffiti tools with the intention to use them to create illegal graffiti.  

Can I be stopped and searched for graffiti tools?

A police officer may stop, search and detain you if they reasonably think you have a graffiti tool that will be used to create illegal graffiti.  For more information about police searches, see our page on “My rights with the Police”.

Can the police confiscate my graffiti tool?

Yes, the police will be able to take your graffiti tool (such as a spray paint can or marker), if it is against the law for you to be carrying it or if they think that you have used it, or will use it, for graffiti. For more information about police powers to confiscate, see our page on  “My rights with the Police”.

What happens if I’ve been caught carrying graffiti tools or doing illegal graffiti?

If you are under 18, the police may:

  1. Give you an informal caution;
  2. Issue a formal caution;
  3. Require you to do community service or pay money for the damage you have created;
  4. Require you to attend a family conference;
  5. Charge you. This means you will have to go to court.

For more information about warnings, cautions, youth justice conferences and being charged, see our web pages on “The Youth Justice System” and “Criminal Law”.

What are the penalties for graffiti crimes?

If you are under 18 and you are charged with a graffiti crime and then found guilty, depending on the case a court can:

  1. Give you a fine as high as $5000 (the actual amount of the fine will depend on the circumstances) or make you go to prison for a year;
  2. Make you clean up the graffiti;
  3. Make you pay money to the person whose property you did the graffiti on;
  4. Make a Driver’s Licence Order (if it is not the first time you have been found guilty of a graffiti offence)

For more information about going to Court, see our page on “The Youth Justice System”.

Driver’s Licence Orders

As well as ordering you to pay a fine and/or ordering you to do community service, a Court might also make a Driver’s Licence Order. A Court can also disqualify you from getting your driver’s licence or suspend your licence for up to 6 months. This could mean you spend more time on your L’s and Ps.  

Last review January 2016 JT.

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