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Is graffiti illegal?

Is it illegal to buy spray paint?

Is it illegal to carry a graffiti tool?

Can I be stopped and searched for graffiti tools?

Can the police confiscate my spray can or other graffiti tools?

What happens if I've been caught by the police?

What are the penalties for graffiti crimes?


What is graffiti?

Graffiti is  intentionally marking any premises or other property  (for example, a building, a pole, a tree, or a vehicle) with:

• spray paint;

• a marker pen; or

• anything that can make a mark that will not come off easily with water or detergent.

On this page, we call this “permanent graffiti”

Sticking up signs, posters, or paper, on  property that can be seen from a public place is related to graffiti.  On this page, we call this “temporary graffiti”. 


Is graffiti illegal?

It is possible to create graffiti legally.  For example, it would be legal if you have the permission of the owner or person in charge of the property, or it is a space designated as a legal graffiti spaces.   Check with your local council to see if there are any legal graffiti spaces near you.  
If you don’t have the permission of the owner or your local council, it is against the law to create permanent or temporary graffiti on a person’s property or public property.   


Can I buy spray paint?

If you are under 18, it is against the law for anyone to sell or supply a spray can to you. They may be fined up to $1100. 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 cannot produce identification the shop assistant may refuse to sell you spray paint.


Can I carry a graffiti tool?

If you are under 18 it is against the law to have a spray paint can in your possession in a public place. However, if you can show that you have a proper (and legal) reason to carry the spray paint can, for example, if it’s for your job or education or training, then it is not against the law. 
It is also against the law for you to carry any tool for permanent graffiti (like a marker pen or a tool to make scratches) if you intend to mark someone’s property without their permission.


Can I be stopped and searched for graffiti tools?

Yes, but only in certain circumstances. The police can stop and search you if they think that you are carrying something that has been used or will be used for illegal activity, like illegal graffiti. For more information about Police searches see our Lawstuff page on “Police”. 


Can the Police confiscate my spray can or other graffiti tools?

If you are under 18 (or the police think you are under 18), the police can confiscate your spray can unless you can show you have it for a legal reason (such as you need it for your job, education or training).

The Police do not have to charge you with any offence to confiscate your spray can. However, the Police must explain to you their reasons for confiscating your spray can.

 If the Police do take your spray can they are allowed to throw it away if it is partly used or of very little value.  If they do not throw it away, the police will keep it at the police station for at least seven days. You can make a claim for a return of the spray can from that police station if you are over 18 or you can prove that you had the spray can for a legal reason.  If you do not make a claim within 7 days, the spray can will be thrown away.

For other graffiti tools, the police can confiscate them if they think you have used them or will use them for illegal activity, like illegal graffiti.  For more information about Police powers to confiscate see our Lawstuff page on “Police”.


What happens if I’ve been caught breaking a graffiti law?

Depending on the circumstances and exactly what you’ve been charged with, if you are under 18 the police may:

give you a formal caution;

confiscate the spray can (or other graffiti tool);

charge you; this will mean you have to go to court

For some graffiti crimes, the law says the police cannot just give you a warning, a caution or make you go to a youth justice conference. This means you will most likely be charged and you will have to go to court.

For more information about being charged with an offence, see our Lawstuff page on “Criminal Law”. 


What are the penalties for graffiti crimes?

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

  • Issue a notice of caution (but only if you admit the offence);

  • Fine you. The amount of the fine will depend on the circumstances, but cannot be more than $2200;

  • Require you to perform community service work, which will usually involve cleaning up graffiti in your area, instead of paying the fine.  The amount of community clean up work ordered depends on how much you would have been fined. (Every hour of graffiti clean-up that you do counts as $30 towards your fine). If you are ordered to perform community clean up work, this will also involve taking part in a graffiti prevention program, which is a learning course that shows the harmful impacts of illegal graffiti;

  • Order you to pay for the cost of repairing the damage you have caused up to an amount of $2,200;

  • Make a Driver Licence Order (more on this below); and/or

  • Send you to prison or a children’s detention centre. However, the court will only do this if you have been found guilty of graffiti crimes many times and the court thinks you are likely to do it again.  

Driver 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 Licence Order. A Court can either:

  • extend the time you have to have your L or P Plates by up to six months; OR

  • make it so that you will only be able to get 4 demerit points, for a time of six months or less. This starts from the date that the Court makes the Order.

If you don’t comply with a driver licence order, your licence could be suspended.


This page was last updated on 10 November 2014.