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New York Graffiti and Tagging Frequently Asked Questions

Is graffiti a crime in New York?

Yes, graffiti and tagging are crimes. They are forms of vandalism that cause damage or destruction to property that belongs to someone else. Typically, graffiti and tagging is done with paint or etching agents but can involve any type of defacing of property using lettering or images. Under the New York penal code, graffiti is a form of criminal mischief called “making graffiti”. In order to be convicted of making graffiti, the prosecutor must prove the following:

  • The defendant etched, painted, covered, drew upon, or otherwise placed a mark on public or private property.
  • The defendant intended to damage the property.
  • The defendant did not have the express permission of the owner or operator of the property to place a mark on it.

In addition to the crime of making graffiti, it is also illegal to possess graffiti instruments. In other words, a person could be convicted of a graffiti related offense by merely possessing any tool or substance commonly used to make graffiti.

What are the possible sentences for graffiti and tagging?

The crime of making graffiti is a class A misdemeanor. This means that if the convicted the defendant may be sentenced to jail for less than a year, may be required to pay a fine and fees, and may be required to pay restitution. First offenders are not likely to be sentenced to jail, while repeat offenders or offenders who deface multiple buildings are more likely to be sent to jail.

Is graffiti ever legal?

It is never legal to paint, etch, cover, or in any way mark a building without permission. There have been community mural projects throughout New York that feature graffiti art. However, to be legal, such projects must get approval from building owners and in some cases, the city.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you were arrested for making graffiti, possession of graffiti instruments, or any other criminal mischief offense, it is important to have experienced representation. Even if though crimes related to graffiti are misdemeanors, a conviction may mean jail time, community services, fees, fines, and other consequences to be avoided. The skilled criminal attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have more than 20 years of experience successfully representing clients in New York charged with felonies and misdemeanors. We can help. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Queens, Nassau County, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.

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