Graffiti laws

Graffiti laws

It is an offence to mark graffiti on property that can be seen by the public unless the owner has given you permission.

Graffiti includes defacing, writing, scratching or drawing on or property so that the marks can’t be removed easily with a dry cloth. This includes stencil art and engraving.

There are very serious penalties for making or intending to make graffiti, including large fines and imprisonment.

It is a more serious offence if the graffiti would offend a reasonable person. Political comments are an exception to this, if they are reasonable.

Possessing graffiti tools

It is an offence to carry a can of spray paint that could be used to mark graffiti in particular areas without a good reason, such as needing to carry these tools because of your work. The places where carrying graffiti tools is an offence are:

  • on property that belongs to a transport company (for example, bus shelters, buses and trains)
  • an adjacent place (near to or able to be seen from public transport property)
  • if you are trespassing (on private property without permission from the owner).

Power to search

Police can search you if they suspect that you are carrying something that can be used to make graffiti. This includes spray paint, gouging tool or even a marker pen. They can only do this if they reasonably suspect you are aged 14 or older.

Police may also search your car or anything you are carrying. The police do not need a search warrant if they suspect that evidence may be lost while they apply for the warrant.

The suspicion that police form must be reasonable. If you are near an area with a lot of graffiti or with recently marked graffiti the police can use this to justify their search.

Police will have to prove that you possessed a graffiti tool and that you intended to use it to make graffiti.

Public transport inspectors cannot search you.

See also Getting searched.

Confiscating graffiti tools

Police may take anything that they believe may be used to make graffiti. These tools may be returned if police decide not to take you to court or if you are found not guilty.

Buying spray paint

It is an offence to sell spray paint to a person who is under 18 years old. If you want to buy spray paint you will need a statutory declaration from your employer to say that you need it for work.

Advertising bans

It is also now an offence to advertise graffiti tools (like spray paint) in a way that is likely to encourage the tools to be used to make unlawful graffiti.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with criminal offences.