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NY Penal Law § 145.60: Making Graffiti

New York Penal Law has a number of different offenses that are designed to penalize individuals who damage property that belongs to another person. One of these laws makes it illegal to make graffiti. For the purposes of this statute, the term “Graffiti” is defined as defacing property by etching, painting, covering, drawing upon or otherwise the placing of a mark upon public or private property.  You could be prosecuted for making graffiti under New York Penal Law § 145.60 if you:

  1. Make graffiti on the property of another individual, and
  2. You do not have the permission of the owner of the property to make graffiti on said property.

Example

In defiance against an injustice in which some friends of his were recently arrested on “bogus” charges, Ricky decided to express his outrage by spray painting graffiti on several private homes, a synagogue and a high school. The messages conveyed by the graffiti included derogatory references about members of the local police force. Ricky could face prosecution for making graffiti, because he put the graffiti on several pieces of property that he did not own, and he did so without the permission of the owners of the property.

Offenses that are Related

Possession of Graffiti Instruments: New York Penal Law § 145.65

Trespass: New York Penal Law § 140.05

Criminal mischief in the fourth degree: New York Penal Law § 145.00

Possible Defenses

Depending upon the facts of your unique case, there are several possible defenses against this charge. For example, if you can demonstrate that you are the owner of the property on which you wrote the graffiti, or that the owner of the property gave you permission to mark it, then you would have a plausible defense to a charge of making graffiti.

A possible alternative defense is that you did not have the intent of damaging the property, rather, it was your desire to enhance it with your art. Nevertheless, it may be difficult to convince a court that the graffiti you made did indeed enhance the property, particularly if you did not have the express permission of the owner to put graffiti on their property.

The Sentence

Making graffiti is categorized as a Class A misdemeanor. A possible consequence  would be that you might have to spend up to a year in the county jail. However, there is indeed a good chance that the judge will not sentence you to a jail term, but will instead simply sentence you to a 3 year probation term. You may also be ordered to pay a fine to the court, on top of paying pecuniary restitution to the owner of the property.

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