Graffiti is when you damage the appearance of a property in any way, including by writing, drawing, marking, scratching, etching or posting something on any property (for example, a building, a pole or a vehicle).
It is possible to create graffiti legally. For example, if it is on private property and you have the permission of the owner or it is a legal graffiti space. Check with your local council about legal graffiti spaces.
Graffiti is against the law when you do not have permission to do it from either the owner of the property or the local council. It is also against the law to graffiti on public transport in the Adelaide area (usually run by Adelaide Metro) and its premises (such as a train station or bus stop).
It is also against the law to help, assist or encourage someone else to do graffiti. The penalty for helping or encouraging someone else to do graffiti is the same as the penalty for actually doing it yourself.
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 over 18 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.
It is not against the law to carry graffiti tools (like a spray paint can or marker) if you can prove that you have a lawful reason. For example, if you need it for your job. It is against the law to carry any graffiti tools with the intention to use them to create illegal graffiti.
A police officer may stop, search and detain you if they reasonably think you have a graffiti tool that will be used to create illegal graffiti. For more information about police searches, see "What powers do the police have”.
Yes, the police will be able to take your graffiti tool (such as a spray paint can), if it is against the law for you to be carrying it. For more information about police powers to confiscate, see “What powers do the police have”.
If you are under 18, the police may:
a) Give you an informal caution;
b) Issue a formal caution;
c) Require you to do community service or pay compensation for the damage you have created;
d) Require you to attend Family Conferences;
e) Charge you. This means you will have to go to court.
For more information about warnings, cautions, youth justice conferences and being charged, see our pages "Youth Justice" and “Criminal Law”.
If you are under 18 and you are charged with a graffiti crime and then found guilty, depending on the case a court can:
a) Make you clean up the graffiti;
b) Make you pay money to the person whose property you did the graffiti on;
c) Give you a fine as high as $2,500 (the amount of the fine will depend on the circumstances).
d) Make a driver’s licence order (if it is not the first time you have been found guilty of a graffiti offence)
For more information about going to Court, see “Courtstuff”.
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 also 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 L’s and P's.
If you are under 25 and wish to ask a more selective question please email us on Lawmail.
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This page was last updated on 10 November 2014.