Any marks that change the appearance of property without the owner’s permission could be considered illegal graffiti. This would include writing, drawing, marking, scratching, etching or posting something on someone else’s property without their permission.
Graffiti is only illegal when you do not have permission to do it from either the owner of the property or the local council. It’s also illegal to graffiti on public transport or public transport areas (such as bus stops or train stations).
If you are under 18, it is against the law for anyone to sell you a spray paint can. The seller may be fined up to $5,000. This means that a shop assistant can ask you for identification to prove you are 18 or over 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.
The penalty for helping or encouraging someone else to do graffiti can be the same as the penalty for actually doing it yourself.
A graffiti implement is something that you can do graffiti with. A can of coloured spray paint, and a marker or pen and is 8mm or more in diameter (or 15mm or more in diameter for offences about carrying graffiti implements) can count as graffiti implements under the law.
It’s an offence to carry any graffiti implements if you are planning on using them to create illegal graffiti. It’s also an offence to carry a graffiti implement without a lawful excuse in a public place or a place on which you are trespassing or have entered without invitation. An example of a lawful excuse could be if you need it for your job, school, or you’re using it for a legal graffiti artwork.
A police officer may stop and search you if they reasonably think you have a graffiti implement that will be used to create illegal graffiti.
Yes, the police will be able to take your graffiti implement if it is against the law for you to be carrying it.
If you are under 18, the police may:
For more information about police warnings, cautions, family conferences and being charged, see our factsheet The Police and You.
If you are under 18 and you are found guilty of a graffiti crime, depending on the situation a court can:
As well as ordering you to pay a fine and/or ordering you to do community service, a Court might also make a Driving Licence Order. This means that a Court can 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 Ls and Ps.
If you have been charged with a graffiti offence and would like to speak to a lawyer, call the Free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424.
The Legal Services Commission gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the National Children’s and Youth Legal Centre in allowing the Legal Services Commission of South Australia to use and adapt existing content.