What is graffiti?
Graffiti is damaging or making a mark on property in a way that cannot be wiped away easily with a dry cloth. It can include writing, drawing, marking or scratching a building or a vehicle.
It is possible to create graffiti legally. For example, if you have the permission of the owner and it is not rude or offensive, or it is a legal graffiti space. Check with your local council for more information about legal graffiti spaces.
Graffiti is against the law when it is visible from a public place and you do not have permission of the owner of the property, or your local council. Graffiti is also a crime when it is visible from a public place and the graffiti is offensive. This means offensive graffiti (graffiti that is rude, abusive, distasteful or disrespectful) will be a crime even if you have the permission of the owner of the property.
It is also against the law to stick or post any kind of sign, poster, sticker or paper on any structure, including a building or wall unless you get the permission of the owner or the local council beforehand.
No, but if you are under 18, it is against the law for anyone to sell you spray paint, unless you have a statutory declaration (a certain kind of official letter) from your employer, saying that you need the spray paint for your job.
It depends. A graffiti tool is anything that can be used to make graffiti, including things like spray paint or a marker pen.
It is against the law to carry a graffiti tool anywhere, if you have the intention to create illegal graffiti.
If the police catch you illegally carrying a spray can they can
give you an infringement notice. This means you will have to pay a fine
of up to around $740.
It is also against the law to carry a spray can:
- On public transport
- In certain public places (like roads, footpaths, train stations, wharves or markets) or
- In a private place where you do not have permission to be
Carrying a spray can in these places will not be against the law if you need it for your work.
If you are under 14 years old, the police are not allowed to search you for a spray can without a warrant (permission from a court).
If you are 14 or older, the police may search you without having a warrant if they think that you have a spray can with you, and that you are likely to destroy or get rid of the spray can before they can get a search warrant. If you are in an area where there is a lot of graffiti, or it seems like the area that you are in has recently been marked with graffiti, this may be enough for the police to think you have a spray can with you.
For all other graffiti tools, the normal rules for police searches will apply. See our page “What powers do the police have” for more information.
Transit officers (on public transport) are not allowed to search you for any graffiti tools.
If the police find a spray can or any other evidence that you have committed a graffiti crime, they can take the item from you.
Transit officers on public transport can confiscate a graffiti tool from you if they think that you have used or will use the graffiti tool to commit a graffiti crime. Transit officers can use reasonable force to take your graffiti tool, but they can only use reasonable force after they ask you to hand it over. Transit officers are not allowed to search you. They are only allowed to confiscate graffiti tools that they can see.
If you're under 18 and are caught creating illegal graffiti, the police may:
- warn you not to do it again;
- give you a caution;
- decide to charge you for a graffiti crime.
If you are under 18 and are charged for a graffiti crime and then found guilty by a court, depending on the case a court can do any of these things:
- dismiss the charge (let you off the hook), but make you or your parents make a promise - for example, a promise that you will stop making graffiti;
- put you on a good behaviour bond for up to 12 months
- order you to be placed on probation or under supervision;
- make you to pay the cost of removing the graffiti or poster;
- send you to group conferencing where the police and others meet with you to discuss the crime and its consequences and then as a group agree on the most appropriate outcome;
- order you to report regularly to the authorities (called a ‘Youth Attendance Order’);
- give you a fine (the amount of the fine will depend on the circumstances);
- make you pay for the cost of repairing the damage you have caused up to $1000; or
- order that you be detained in a youth residential centre or youth justice centre (but only if your graffiti crime is very serious or you have continuously broken the law);
For more information about these penalties see “Penalties given by a court”, “Youth Justice” and “Criminal Law”.
For more information about going to Court, see “CourtStuff”.
You are welcome to copy and use this fact sheet.
This page was last updated in October 2014.