Guide to Laws about Graffiti and Vandalism in Los Angeles

How does the city of Los Angeles define graffiti?

Graffiti (aka tagging), though some may consider it “street art,” in Los Angeles means “any form of unauthorized inscription, word, figure or design which is marked, etched, scratched, drawn, sprayed, painted or otherwise affixed to or on any surface of public or private property, including but not limited to, buildings, walls, signs, structures or places, or other surfaces, regardless of the nature of the material of that structural component.”1LAMC 49.84.2

What are the penalties for graffiti or vandalism?

In California, depending on the value of the damage, graffiti or vandalism can lead to up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $50,000. If a minor is responsible for the graffiti or vandalism and can’t pay the fine, the parents must pay it.2Penal Code 594

In addition, if you create graffiti within the city of LA, you could also be required to pay a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per incident.3LAMC 49.84.12

If your child creates graffiti anywhere within the city of LA, you are responsible to pay the cleanup and repair costs.4LAMC 49.84.9 If you are unable or unwilling to pay, you may be permitted or required to do community service and attend parenting classes instead.5LAMC 49.84.10(F) See our Guide to Laws for Parents.

Is it illegal just to hold a spray paint can or etching cream?

In certain areas public spaces, such as parks or public buildings, it is illegal where there are signs saying so.6LAMC 49.84.5

Am I allowed to make graffiti on my own property or allow others to do graffiti on my property?

You may not place or allow graffiti to remain on property you own or control if the graffiti is visible to the public.7LAMC 49.84.3 See our Guide to Laws for Homeowners.

How can I get graffiti removed?

Call 311 or go to the MyLA311 website or the 311 app. If it is on your property, the city may pay for the removal of the graffiti (unless you created it).8LAMC 49.84.7

Do graffiti artists have any rights to their art?

If it’s done legally, then yes. If it’s illegal, probably not. See our Guide to Laws for Artists.

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