NY Criminal Defense: Making Graffiti, Possession of Graffiti Instruments & Criminal Mischief Part I

The New York criminal defense attorneys at Crotty Saland PC know firsthand how the NYPD has been aggressively pursuing people accused of graffiti and graffiti related crimes. The NYPD’s Vandal Squad, based out of Brooklyn, is hell bent on cleaning up New York. While we can all agree that keeping New York clean and safe is a tremendous task of great importance, the pursuit of this goal does not give the police the permission to violate individual rights. Unfortunately, we at Crotty Saland PC have seen this happen on more than one occasion in the past two or three months. In a series of entries I will discuss the potential crimes associated with graffiti, the consequences of a conviction, general ways to best defend yourself, and some of the experiences we have had as criminal defense attorneys. The first entry in this series will address the potential crimes or offenses related to making graffiti and their consequences. These crimes are Criminal Mischief, Making Graffiti, and Possession of Graffiti Instruments.

Criminal Mischief in the Fourth through Second Degrees, pursuant to Penal Law sections 145.00, 145.05 and 145.10, are crimes that can be charged in connection with graffiti offenses as well as when property is damaged through other means. As it applies to graffiti crimes, a person is guilty of this Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree when having no right to do so or reasonable grounds to believe that he has such a right, he intentionally damages the property of another person. If an individual intentionally damages another person’s property and the damage exceeds $250 or $1,500, then they are guilty of Criminal Mischief in the Third and Second Degrees respectively. Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree is an “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to one year jail. Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree is an “E” felony punishable by up to four years in state prison. Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree is a “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison.

Making Graffiti is an “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. According to Penal Law 145.60, “graffiti” is defined as the “etching, painting, covering, drawing upon or otherwise placing of a mark upon public or private property with intent to damage such property. In substance, a person is guilty of this offense if they make graffiti on any building without the express permission of the owner or operator. If you are a graffiti artist, a question likely popped up after reading this definition…and it is a good one. What if my intent was not to damage, but to express my artistic visions? That very good question, and others, will be answered in a later entry.

Possession of Graffiti Instruments is a “B” misdemeanor punishable by up to to ninety days in jail. According to Penal Law 145.65, a person is guilty of Possession of Graffiti Instruments when he possesses any tool, instrument, article, substance, solution or other compound designed or commonly used to etch, paint, cover, draw upon or otherwise place a mark upon a piece of property which that person has no permission or authority to etch, paint, cover, draw upon or otherwise mark, under circumstances evincing an intent to use same in order to damage such property. Types of “tool” or “instrument” this crime is referring to are things such as cans of spray paint or markers.

If you arrested “red handed” or the Vandal Squad comes knocking on your door be polite, don’t resist, but do one very important thing. Tell the officers or detectives that you want to speak to your lawyer and do not admit to making any graffiti even if the police promise they will “go easy” on you. Do not compound a bad situation by doing the wrong thing. Whether it is 2 am or 2 pm, call the criminal defense attorneys at Crotty Saland PC.

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