How serious of a crime is graffiti?

Some might call it art, but property owners usually call it vandalism. Whichever way you look at it, you and other Pennsylvania residents who are accused of drawing or painting on others’ personal property may face legal consequences.

In Pennsylvania, graffiti is classified as criminal mischief, which is usually a misdemeanor charge. For example, you could serve 90 days in jail and be required to pay a fine of up to $2,500 for damaging personal property – including creating graffiti – if the damage is less than $500. The charges become significantly higher when the monetary damages are higher. If the property damage for graffiti and vandalism exceeds $5,000, the charge becomes a felony and you could spend several years in jail.

Few can argue that some graffiti artists are quite talented, and their work can be impressive. Some graffiti masters have even gained a measure of fame and notoriety. A few communities across the country have welcomed street art by designating areas for artists to showcase their graffiti or by commissioning some graffiti artists to paint their buildings.

However, you should understand that no matter how skilled your work is, most property owners will not appreciate having their property altered without their consent. Many people consider graffiti to be an eyesore or an indicator of crime or gang activity in the area. If you are found responsible for creating unwanted graffiti, you could be required to clean it up or to pay for cleanup costs, in addition to the above penalties. The information in this blog is not meant to take the place of legal counsel.

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