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Understanding the Law of Making Graffiti in New York, Part 2

In this blog, we continue our discussion of the common criminal charges people face when accused of Making Graffiti.

CRIMINAL MISCHIEF

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the various elements of the crimes of Making Graffiti and Possession of Graffiti Instruments, two charges which often go hand in hand in these types of cases. However, in cases where actual damage is caused to property, arrestees may find themselves faced with the charge of “Criminal Mischief” [Penal Law §145.00] (note that the Graffiti statute only requires intent to damage property, whereas this statute requires actual damage be caused). Once again, any argument that graffiti is “improving” property, absent permission by the property owner, will fail and graffiti that defaces property will be deemed to also damage it. Any damage to property, regardless of the dollar amount of such damage, would fall under Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree, which is a class “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. In cases where damage is alleged to exceed $250.00, the charges may be elevated to Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree, a Class “E” felony which is punishable up to 1 and 1/3 – 4 years in jail for a first time offender. The addition of these charges can sometimes be problematic for those who seek to preserve their records and change the landscape of any plea negotiation.

ENHANCING GRAFFITI PROSECUTIONS

As previously noted, the City has put great effort into preventing the proliferation of graffiti in New York as well as punishing those who create it. The NYPD’s specialized “Vandalism Squad” routinely photographs as much graffiti as they can for the purpose of maintaining a graffiti database. When a person is charged with creating a tag or mural, the detectives will then check to see if an identical tag or mural has been documented in the database and if so, and will then attempt to secure an admission from the suspect that he/she was responsible for making the older graffiti markings as well. Obviously, this can leading to additional charges being filed, which further complicates things for an arrestee, so anyone in such a position should consult with an attorney before making the decision to talk with law enforcement.

THE COURT CASE

Once a graffiti case is passed off to the prosecutor and the case heads to Court, it is common for the government to attempt to seek restitution in the form compensation to the property owner for any cost incurred in undoing the damage caused by the graffiti. Restitution payments can be incorporated in plea deals which may end up being more favorable to those facing graffiti charges, so it is important to have an experienced attorney involved in the process as early as possible to attempt to mitigate the situation. Our team of former prosecutors mounts aggressive campaigns on behalf of each of our clients for the purpose of preserving their liberty, employment and citizenship status. If you have been arrested and charged with any offense involving graffiti or damage to property, do not hesitate to contact one of our former prosecutors at Galluzzo and Arnone LLP for a consultation. We are experience both in prosecuting and defending Graffiti offenses, and are ready to put together a sound strategy on your behalf.