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Is graffiti illegal?

Is it against the law to buy spray paint?

Is it against the law to carry spray paint or another thing to do graffiti?

Can I be stopped and searched for carrying spray paint, markers and other things?

Can the police confiscate spray paint, markers and other things?

What happens if I'm caught doing graffiti by the police?

What are the penalties for doing illegal graffiti?


What is graffiti?

Graffiti is spraying, writing, drawing, marking, scratching or etching any space (for example, a building, a pole or a vehicle).

Is graffiti illegal?

It is possible to create graffiti legally.  For example, if you have permission from the owner or it is a space designated as a legal graffiti space.  Check with your local council about these spaces.

If you don’t have the permission of the owner or your local council, it is against the law to create graffiti on a person’s property or public property, or on something that is visible to the public.


Can I buy spray paint?

If you are under 18, it is against the law for anyone to sell a spray can to you. If they do, they may face a fine. A shop assistant can ask you for identification to prove you are over 18 if you want to buy spray paint. If you cannot prove you are over 18 with identification, the shop assistant may refuse to sell you spray paint.


Can I carry a graffiti tool?

A graffiti tool is spray paint, a spray can, or anything used to make an etching, like a pocket knife or a nail.

It is also against the law to have any graffiti tool that has been used for illegal graffiti or that the police think was or will be used for illegal graffiti.


Can I be stopped and searched for graffiti tools?

Yes, but generally only if the police reasonably think you have a graffiti tool that has been or will be used for illegal graffiti. For more information about police searches, see “What powers do the police have”.


Can the police confiscate a graffiti tool?

Yes, but only in certain circumstances.

If you are under 18 and have a spray can, the police can take it from you if they have reason to think it is evidence that someone has broken the law by selling it to you.

For all other graffiti tools, the normal rules for police confiscations will apply.  See “What powers do the police have” for more information.


What happens if I’ve been caught by the police making illegal graffiti or illegally carrying a graffiti tool?

If you are under 17, the police may:

1.      Take the graffiti tool from you (see more on this above)

2.      Give you a caution;

3.      Refer you to a youth justice conference;

4.      Charge you. This means you will have to go to court.

5.   Give you the opportunity to attend a graffiti removal program

For more information about being charged by the police and about cautions, see “Criminal Law” and “Youth Justice System”.


What are the penalties for graffiti crimes?

If you are under 17 and you are charged for making graffiti or carrying a graffiti tool and you are then found guilty at court, depending on the case a court can:

a)         Give you a reprimand – that is, a warning not to do it again;

c)         Order you to pay compensation for the cost of repairing the damage you have caused;

d)         Require you to perform community service work such as cleaning up the graffiti;

e)         Require you to attend Youth Justice Conferencing;

f)         Fine you. The amount of the fine will depend on the circumstances; 

g)         Send you to a youth detention centre for up to one year. This is very much a last resort and will only happen if you have been in trouble with the police a lot.

For more information about these penalties see “Youth Justice System”.  For more information about what happens at court, see “Courtstuff.”


This page was last updated in October 2014.