While graffiti has only recently gained attention as an internationally recognized art form, it’s still illegal in many places.
Texas is one such place that prohibits graffiti. Making any marking or drawing on another person’s property can lead to criminal charges in the state.
State law on graffiti
According to Texas law, a person commits a graffiti offense if they intentionally write, paint or draw on the tangible property of another person without the other’s consent. The law also clearly states that the offense must involve using some permanent marking or difficult-to-erase medium, such as paint, an indelible marker or an etching device.
Those who violate Texas’ law against graffiti potentially face criminal charges. The criminal grade and penalties the convicted face depend on how much loss the owner of the defaced property suffered because of the graffiti:
- Property owner suffered a loss of less than $100: This is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries as much as $500 in fines.
- Property owner suffered a loss of $100 or more but less than $750: This is a Class B misdemeanor, which leads to up to 180 days in jail and as much as $2,000 in fines on conviction.
- Property owner suffered a loss of $750 or more but less than $2,500: This is a Class A misdemeanor, which leads to up to a year in prison and as much as $4,000 in fines on conviction.
- Property owner suffered a loss of $2,500 or more but less than $30,000: This is a state jail felony. A convicted person faces up to two years in prison.
- Property owner suffered a loss of $30,000 or more but less than $150,000: This crime is a felony of the third degree. A convicted person faces up to 10 years in prison.
- Property owner suffered a loss of $150,000 or more but less than $300,000: This crime is a felony of the second degree. A convicted person faces up to 20 years in prison.
- Property owner suffered a loss of $300,000 or more: This crime is a felony of the first degree. The highest possible criminal grade for graffiti offenses, a convicted person faces life imprisonment or a maximum 99-year sentence.
A graffiti offense also immediately becomes a state jail felony if the marking was made on a school, an institute of higher education, a place of worship, a public monument, or a community center.
Graffiti might also count as criminal mischief
In addition to graffiti charges, a person accused of drawing graffiti may also face separate charges for criminal mischief. Charges for criminal mischief may lead to penalties as low as those for Class C misdemeanors but can also reach felony levels if the act of graffiti disrupts the operations of a public utility.
Graffiti might look like a harmless way to create urban art, but it’s a punishable offense in Texas that can lead to prison time. Those accused should consider their defense options, especially if their art caused thousands of dollars in damages.