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Graffiti (ACT)

What is graffiti?

Graffiti is when you make a mark using chalk, paint or any other material on a wall, a building or a public space.

IMPORTANT: In the ACT, the laws that apply to putting up a poster or a sign on a building or public space without proper permission is the same as the laws that apply to creating graffiti.


Is graffiti illegal?

It depends. It is possible to create graffiti legally. For example, if you have the consent of the owner or it is a space designated as a legal graffiti site.  A list of legal graffiti sites can be found here

But, it is against the law if you create graffiti:

  • on any public property, like a public road, a bus shelter or any other property of the government or a government authority that is not a legal graffiti site; or

  • you do it on any private property and you not have the permission of the owner or the person who is using the property.  

Is it against the law to buy spray paint?


Is it against the law to have spray paint or markers? 


Can I be stopped and searched for graffiti tools?

Generally, the police will not be able to search you for graffiti tools because they suspect you of doing illegal graffiti.  For more about police powers to search people, see “What powers do the police have”.


Can the police confiscate something they think I will use to make graffiti?

Generally, the police will not have the power to confiscate graffiti tools.  For more about police powers to confiscate things, see “What powers do the police have”. 


What happens if I’ve been caught making illegal graffiti by the police?

If you are under 18, the police may:

  • Give you an informal caution (a warning not to do it again); 
  • Give you a fine of up to $200 if you are over 16;
  • Give you the choice to attend conferencing, where the police and others meet with you to discuss the crime and its consequences.  The group agrees on the most appropriate outcome.
  • Charge you.  This means you will have to go to court.

For more information about cautions, conferences and being charged with an offence, see our page “Youth Justice” and “Criminal Law”.


What are the penalties for graffiti crimes?

If you are charged and found guilty by a court, the court can:

  • fine you (but this is normally only if you would be able to pay the fine). The maximum fine is $7500;

  • put you on a good behaviour order (where you sign something to say you promise to be on good behaviour and may have to perform community service, like removing the graffiti); 

  • send you to a restorative justice conference to  negotiate a restorative justice agreement for you, containing measures intended to repair the harm caused by the graffiti and;

  • send you to juvenile detention (in exceptional cases).

For more information about these punishments, see our page “Youth Justice”.  For more information about going to court, see “Courtstuff.”

You are welcome to copy and use this fact sheet. 

This page was last updated 23 September 2014.