Disclaimer: The material in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not legal advice. For legal advice about your own particular situation we encourage you to call the Free Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424. The legal information was correct at the time of publishing (April 2016), however may change without notice.
The Legal Services Commission gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the National Children’s and Youth Legal Centre in allowing the Legal Services Commission of South Australia to use and adapt existing content.
In this section you will find information on:
- Graffiti and the law
- Buying spray paint
- Graffiti tools and getting searched by the police
- Penalties for graffiti crimes
Graffiti and the Law
What is graffiti?
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).
Is graffiti illegal?
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.
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.
Buying spray paint
Can I buy spray paint?
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.
Graffiti tools and the Police
What counts as a graffiti tool?
A graffiti tool (graffiti implement) is something that you can do graffiti with. A can of spray paint (other than a can that doesn’t contain pigment or is transparent when sprayed on to a surface), and a marker or pen that has ink or paint that can’t be removed (like a permanent texta, or a posca pen) and is 8mm or more in diameter can count as graffiti implements under the law.
Can I carry a graffiti tool (graffiti implement)?
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. However, it is against the law to carry any graffiti tools with the intention to use them to create illegal graffiti.
Can the police stop and search me for graffiti implements?
A police officer may stop, search and detain you if they reasonably think you have a graffiti implement that will be used to create illegal graffiti.
Can the police confiscate my graffiti tool?
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.
What happens if I’ve been caught carrying graffiti tools, or doing illegal graffiti by the police?
If you are under 18, the police may:
- Give you an informal caution;
- Issue a formal caution;
- Require you to do community service or pay compensation for the damage you have created;
- Require you to attend Family Conferences;
- 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 information on Young People and Police.
Penalties for graffiti crimes
What are the penalties for graffiti crimes?
If you are under 18 and you are charged with a graffiti crime and then found guilty, depending on the case a court can:
- Make you clean up the graffiti;
- Make you pay money to the person whose property you did the graffiti on;
- Give you a fine as high as $2,500 (the amount of the fine will depend on the circumstances);
- Make a driver’s licence order (if it is not the first time you have been found guilty of a graffiti offence).
As well as ordering you to pay a fine and/or ordering you to do community service, a Court might also make a Driving 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 Ls and Ps.
If you have been charged with a graffiti offence and would like to speak to a lawyer, call the Free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424.