Graffiti and The Law
Disclaimer: The material in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not legal advice. For legal advice about your own particular situation we encourage you to call the Free Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424. The legal information was correct at the time of publishing (January 2018), however may change without notice.
What counts as illegal graffiti?
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).
Can I buy spray paint?
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.
Did you know…
The penalty for helping or encouraging someone else to do graffiti can be the same as the penalty for actually doing it yourself.
Laws to do with Graffiti Implements
What counts as a graffiti implement?
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.
Is it an offence to carry a graffiti implement?
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.
Can the police stop and search me for graffiti implements?
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.
Can the police confiscate my graffiti implement?
Yes, the police will be able to take your graffiti implement if it is against the law for you to be carrying it.
What happens if police catch me carrying graffiti tools, or doing illegal graffiti?
If you are under 18, the police may:
- Give you an informal caution;
- Issue a formal caution;
- Require you to do community service or pay compensation for the damage you have created;
- Require you to attend a Family Conference; or
- Charge you. This means you will have to go to court.
For more information about police warnings, cautions, family conferences and being charged, see our factsheet The Police and You.
Penalties for graffiti crimes
What is the penalty for illegal graffiti?
If you are under 18 and you are found guilty of a graffiti crime, depending on the situation a court can:
- Make you clean up the graffiti,
- Make you pay money to the person whose property you did the graffiti on,
- Give you a fine (the amount of the fine will depend on the circumstances), and/or
- Make a driver’s licence order (if you’ve been found guilty of a graffiti offence before).
What’s a ‘Driver’s Licence Order’?
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.