Texas Graffiti Laws

Texas Graffiti Laws

Whether it’s in Houston, Dallas or a small rural town, graffiti can be found on walls, trains and trees throughout the state of Texas. Some people argue that this type of spray-painted decoration is an art form that should be allowed, others claim that it is a public nuisance and may even be related to criminal activity. No matter what someone may believe on this subject, the laws in Texas are clear on the topic of graffiti: it’s illegal.

Defacing any type of property with graffiti is a criminal offense in Texas and, while some may argue that it is a harmless art form, getting caught while creating graffiti can lead to jail time and expensive fines.

What Is Graffiti?

Taking its name from an ancient Greek word that means “to write,” graffiti has existed for as long as people have had access to paint and writing materials. Even ancient cities have shown evidence of primitive graffiti. In the modern era, graffiti has come to be seen as a unique art form while others consider it an expensive public menace.

Although graffiti is often associated with major urban areas, graffiti can be found nearly anywhere in the state of Texas. Most graffiti can be found on the sides of public buildings, fences or structures. It is typically found in areas that are not visited frequently or it may be created at night when no one is around. It is usually made with spray paint or permanent markers and it can be simple and plain or highly elaborate and stylized.

Graffiti is made for several purposes:

  • For artistic merit or to display skill
  • To praise a particular person or group of people
  • For political protests or social awareness
  • By gang members to claim territory or threaten rivals

Although some graffiti may be visually appealing, the simple truth is that it can devalue property and create an eyesore. Those who are responsible for its creation can face serious penalties if they are caught.

Legal Penalties

Section 28.08 of the Texas Penal Code lays out the legal consequences that can be administered with a conviction for creating graffiti. The law states that any person who, without effective consent of the owner, creates inscriptions, drawings or designs on property with spray paint, permanent markers or with etchings may be arrested and prosecuted.

It should be noted that this law applies to drawings or designs which are permanent or difficult to remove. Children who draw with sidewalk chalk or people who post paper flyers looking for lost pets are generally not subject to graffiti laws in Texas.

The penalty for a graffiti conviction will vary based on the estimated or actual amount of financial loss that the property owner will experience after cleaning the graffiti or having damage repaired.

The following list details the potential punishments:

  • Damage of less than $100 is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine
  • Damage of between $100 and $750 is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail
  • Damage of more than $30,000 but less than $150,000 is a third degree felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison

In some cases, a person who is convicted of a graffiti offense may be ordered by the court to pay compensation to the owner, help to remove the graffiti or to serve some community service.

Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the best way to stand up to charges in court. A defense attorney may be able to provide advice and negotiate with the court for a lighter sentence. For example, an attorney could argue that the defendant is a first-time, low-level offender and should be give probation and a fine instead of jail time. In some cases, the court may allow a plea bargain that lets the defendant pay restitution and/or work for the property owner instead of spending time behind bars.

In some large cities, there are even public areas where certain types of graffiti are allowed. Finding a good lawyer is the best way to avoid jail time and find ways of staying out of trouble in the future.

Have you or someone you know been charged with graffiti? You need to contact Matthew D. Sharp, a tough, smart Houston lawyer. Contact his office today at 713-868-6100.