Pretty much the whole “Legal Issues” section was cut, so here it is.

There are many laws regarding graffiti, agencies of enforcement, county and city abatement departments, community assistance and regulation, and volunteer organizations to paint out graffiti. That is a tremendous amount of financial and human resources that could be used to benefit the public elsewhere, which is why the official response to graffiti has escalated. It used to be $2,000 in damage (five times the present $400) that would classify someone’s graffiti as a felony, so it’s much easier to catch a felony charge today. A billboard is $1600 just for printing. Acid bath is a felony even to possess. And as bombers get bolder, enforcement gets cannier, checking into graffiti web sites and forums picking up information to help them know who’s who and where activity may be going on. Private organizations have also popped up in outrage over the amount of graffiti in the public eye. For example, the Nograf Network Inc. has called for a Boycott on all Coke, Sprite and Atari products until the companies agree to cease supporting illegal graffiti.

California Penal Code 594
(A) Every person who maliciously (1) defaces with paint or any other liquid, (2) damages or (3) destroys any real or personal property not his own, in case otherwise specified by state law, is guilty of vandalism.

(B) If the amount of defacement, damage or destruction is $400 or more, vandalism is punishable by imprisonment in a state prison or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not more than $10,000 or both that fine and imprisonment.

Damage greater than $50,000: One year in jail, $50,000 fine or both.
Damage $5,000 to $50,000: One year in jail, $10,000 fine or both
Damage $400 to $5,000: One year in jail, $5,000 fine or both.
Damage $400 or less: Six months in jail, $1,000 or both

California Penal Code 594.1
Provides that no aerosol paint containers be sold to persons under 18 years of age.

State Civil Code, Sec. 1714.1
Provides that parents are responsible to pay for damages caused by the willful misconduct of their children, including repair costs and attorney fees up to $10,000.

City of Los Angeles Ordinances & Resolutions
165152 Declares graffiti to be a public nuisance and requires owners to remove graffiti from their property. Those who fail to keep their properties graffiti free may be cited by the Department of Building and Safety. If graffiti is not removed within specified time, the City will remove the graffiti and assess the owner for the cost plus 40% administrative fees.

The County Metropolitan Transit Authority (LACMTA) operates a fleet of buses and light-rail trains and subway trains in California and has its own police force. The annual cost of fighting graffiti is reported to be around $14 million. In response, the General Manager and Chief of Transit Police created the Graffiti Habitual Offender Suppression Team (GHOST), a 20-officer task force dedicated solely to this problem. This vandalism task force targets juveniles, who are believed to be responsible for the vast majority of graffiti. Undercover GHOST Officers ride buses that take students to school and videotape students painting graffiti. The LACMTA police also use the Claim at Arrest Program, which forces parents of offenders to pay for damages. Undercover LACMTA police are also used to curb “bus mobbing” (when a bus stops, a group of kids “mob” the bus, bombing it with tags). LACMTA has also used new materials to save itself the cost of replacing windows that have been scribed by using sacrificial windows. These windows provide a removable coating of plastic that protects the actual window from damage caused by scribing. All of these programs have led to a measurable effect with increased arrests, less graffiti, and reduced spending for removal.
The Office of Community Beautification, a division of the Board of Public Works is responsible for neighborhood cleanup with sixteen community based non-profit agencies spread around the city in charge of graffiti abatement. Complaints are registered through the city’s 311 hotline center by residents and business property owners, and proactive passersby. Funded by the city’s General Fund, they also receive federal grant money, community development block grant money, with the overall total budget for their program at about seven and a half million dollars. The Department of Recreation and Parks have their own fleet of equipment and painters for graffiti removal at their facilities and spend an estimated $500,000 annually, but are separate from the L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation, which deals with areas that are not incorporated cities. The L.A. Unified School District is responsible for school property.

Stash Maleski provided clarification regarding permission or commissioned neighborhood mural walls. Maleski is production manager for the pilot program which assists building owners understand how they can work with the Department of Cultural Affairs with mural options (including community outreach and meetings, hearings in front of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Building and Safety). The staff walks them through the process. This started because, in March ’05, a person in Boyle Heights who felt even cultural murals brought down property values and signified “ghetto” (e.g. in Beverly Hills you don’t see murals). He thought that the murals were there only to deter graffiti, and he complained to the Building and Safety (on behalf of Cultural Affairs), who enforce signage and murals. They found that the murals being complained about didn’t have permits. If it’s a wall abutting city property, on or above city property, it’s under the jurisdiction of Cultural Affairs as a mural, and until recently, if it could be seen from public property including the alleyways, it was under the jurisdiction of Cultural Affairs. Building and Safety regulates anything that has a trademark or logo, even a business. So Building and Safety cited the offending owners, and a lot of the small businesses got fearful and whited them out. The city itself cannot white out any of those murals, they can only fine or cite them, and then with that pressure people can choose to white them out themselves. Antonio Villaraigosa who was a councilman for that district at that time, felt they were valuable cultural assets for the neighborhood and didn’t want to loose the murals, so he gave $60,000 from his discretionary fund (Clark fund) to the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock (CAER, the pilot program) which was in council district 14, the idea being to work with the building owners so they could keep the murals. With the money, they could have them painted out, get them permitted through Cultural Affairs, or have them re-painted or repaired. They (the budgeted CAER) also run a comprehensive mural maintenance program, so that if a mural gets tagged, the artists get paid to fix it themselves. Neighborhood councils and groups have been going to graffiti removal sub-contractors and telling them to remove graffiti from the sides of liquor stores, and they have harassed the liquor store owners telling them wrongly that the murals are illegal: they may be un-permitted, but that doesn’t mean they have to be removed, because they have the opportunity to go through the approval process. Cultural Affairs is not concerned about content. They are concerned about the maintenance commitment. The aerosol murals are generally not coated with protective substances, because then they can’t be repainted. In these cases, there is a time within which the artists are required to restore the mural. I should emphasize that if spray can writers want a non-permitted permission mural or wall to keep running, they need to maintain that wall from tag toys, otherwise community complaints come in and that’s what gets things shut down. Anybody that commissions a mural needs to budget for the maintenance, possibly as much as the mural cost to paint. Any business employing a graffiti removal contractor needs to be careful in their choice, as they may paint over a desired mural rather than remove the graffiti and may be very sloppy in how and where they paint, they may not be reliable in the timeliness of maintenance, and they may clear coat things that are going to be re-painted. That being said, the graffiti abatement program for non-mural walls, for example in Boyle Heights down Cesar Chavez Blvd. is very effective, other than it then inspires tag toys to hit the murals because they stay longer. The Office of Community Beautification has helped CAER greatly with mural maintenance, as they appreciate the value of murals and understand that they can be a deterrent to vandalism. In addition to official agencies that cover or remove graffiti, there are many private companies available for hire by businesses and residents, and volunteer organizations that regularly clean up hard hit areas.

“I don’t like confrontations with police, even if it’s a legal spot, because they’re already throwing your name on that list, they run your information up, they write in that little book of theirs that they keep for future references. The worst time to get caught is when you’re just beginning and there are just a few lines on the wall and it doesn’t look like anything.”
– Atlas

So I was shocked to learn that, according to Roger from Swindle and Wise from KSN, that I was actually the first Graffiti artist to get national press coverage for being arrested for graffiti! That’s pretty cool! Of course, it leaves me no choice – I have to continue painting.
Anyhow, I’m out of town ’till the 9th, surf trip.
Talk soon,

20 Responses to “8) “Legal Codes and Regulations””

  1. on 26 Nov 2007 at 7:31 pmJahmOne

    Atlas, I disagree, I think its worse to get caught with your full name up because the cops will refer to their database and get you on multiple counts…Maybe I misunderstood what you were saying..And what about stickers or posts?…Like all the stickers I see up around LA, do you know if the cops keep tabs on those just like they do for bombs and pieces?…

    –Respect to Atlas and Nyse, and all other legit LA writers…

    -JAHM one LA

  2. on 05 Aug 2008 at 7:30 amvoila

    im curious about procedures… one night i was painting a roof top in the fashion district in down town when i noticed a security truck drive by and pull into the parking lot. and parked at the pole we had climbed up.
    naturally i jumped off the roof and ran, but was cornered in an alley.
    sadly and stupidly i had pocketed a broken butterfly knife i had found in the river earlier that night.
    point is, while in custody by fashion police i continually denied any act of vandalism despite the paint in the bag. no paint on hands.
    claiming i hadnt the chance to start yet.
    LAPD arrived and asked security if they had physically seen me paint. i spotted them first so they had not.
    therefore the only charge was pocession of a deadly weapon. which is a hassle in itself.
    my question is… what type of procedures must an officer have to make a proper arrest?

  3. on 10 Aug 2008 at 3:27 amsolem one

    i recently got busted at the budweiser yard but just got caught with 3 tips and a disposible camera.anyway i got locked up for a week just cuz i didnt know my phone number!.so while i was in custodythe police searched my pad and found a gang o shit in my closet like cameras, pictures,slaps,blackbooks,and a couple of cans and so i was just wonderin if they’re gonna try to put all that shit on me.

  4. on 10 Aug 2008 at 4:29 amsteveWP

    Viola and Solem, I’m trying to get an answer to your questions.

  5. on 24 Mar 2009 at 7:33 pmMCNEILL

    I read your blog from time to time and I own a similar one. I was just wondering if you get a ton of spam? If so how do you control it, any plugin or something you can suggest? I get so much it’s driving me crazy so any help is much appreciated.

  6. on 15 Jan 2010 at 8:41 pmk2wswef


  7. on 26 Mar 2010 at 12:57 amBRISK

    yo i never got cot painting im lucky…

  8. on 10 Jun 2010 at 9:50 pmRaSEk..mBc..

    all those laws are bullshit….
    still be getn’ up…..

    most..brutal.. crew

  9. on 24 Jun 2010 at 8:20 amRySeR av D2C 661

    Deffinetly* The* Craziest

  10. on 12 Jul 2010 at 6:58 pmCarolina Garcia

    Hey I was wondering is there anywhere in LA where graffiti is legal and accepted?….Because I know there is a wall along Slaughson Ave. and I see alot of artist setting up from time to time doing murals…so I was wondering if it was legal there and if there is more places like it?
    Thanks Carolina

  11. on 03 Aug 2010 at 7:27 amMRE

    always try to stay low key, clean hands and dispose all the emptu cans after finishing your piece….why overthink this topic…freeze means run!
    I moved to LA few years ago from overseas and I can easily spot writers from miles away!..they also love to ask “hey what u write”, just keep a clean look (clean pants, running shoes, and always use gloves) leave your cans inside a trash or grocery store bag.

    I usually lock the area around me (change locks,use wires or broken light bulbs) you better safe than sorry…….

    …..always take your sd card (memory card) our of the camera before leaving the spot…


  12. on 23 Jun 2012 at 3:43 amSAGER..IGMC

    Im not an established writer, or even in the L.A. Scene…I’m out of The SouthWest AZ Yuma…I am known in my lil question here is, I love the research that has gone into cuttin out the laws for writers to be aware of….How would I go about finding those laws in or for Arizona…
    Also I’d like to add that in thee state of az, they might catch u, even with paint n same color, with a sketch…but if there are no caps around, they can’t prosecute…

  13. on 28 Jun 2012 at 8:25 pmsteveWP

    Hi Sager,

    Perhaps you could simply contact the city council with that question, perhaps using a non-writer’s computer and representing yourself as a concerned parent so as not to attract undue attention. Also if you feel up to it and you are not covered in paint drips, you could ask a cop. Probably, though, you could do a google search for Yuma AZ graffiti penal code.

  14. on 12 Oct 2012 at 4:20 ammsmadera

    hey and thanks for this site…
    any ideas how the law responds to writing on furniture/mattresses and other trash left on the street?

  15. on 16 Oct 2012 at 9:07 pmsteveWP

    I don’t know officially, but I assume that writing on furniture and mattresses left as junk on the street would be much harder to prosecute as vandalism, BUT, I wouldn’t be surprised if they would try to match you name to other more prosecuteable writing elsewhere.

  16. on 10 Dec 2012 at 3:04 pmeasr

    fuck the system

  17. on 18 Dec 2012 at 5:49 amOFER BITCH FROM THE LA SIDE .

    fuck the system , let us bomb my niggga

  18. on 05 Mar 2013 at 7:36 pmROGER


  19. on 09 Jun 2013 at 2:33 pmKsa crew

    Ksa crew unik known street army kush smokin addicts unik nebur teror arker harsh rift boom suber ! 323 boyle heights big los angeles

  20. on 17 Jun 2014 at 10:18 amrekla ami

    it’s stupid that they are trying to get all graffiti writers. But they can’t even get the foos that rape little girls or the cops that be killing innocent people. I’m just a graffiti writer that paints because it doesn’t hurt anyone or kills anybody so the only thing I want to say for all the graffiti writes is do what ever you going to do in a smart way.
    Always.Mobbing.It Rekla all day

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