In general, you commit the crime of graffiti if you tag graffiti on public or private property without the owner’s consent. The offense is a gross misdemeanor under Washington law that could lead to custody in county jail for up to one year. If you or a loved one is facing a graffiti charge, please contact a skilled criminal defense attorney for help.
What is the Crime of Graffiti?
RCW 9A.48.090 is the Washington statute that sets forth the state’s law on graffiti. Per this law, you are guilty of a crime if you:
- Write, paint, or draw any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private property, and
- Do so without the property owner’s consent.
Note that the crime of graffiti is charged under the state’s malicious mischief laws. In fact, graffiti is labeled as malicious mischief in the third degree. “Malicious mischief” is the offense where an offender intentionally and maliciously damages the property of another person or entity (e.g., a business or city), and does so without the owner’s consent.
What are the Penalties?
Graffiti, or malicious mischief in the third degree is a gross misdemeanor (as opposed to a felony) under Washington law. The crime is punishable by:
- Custody in county jail for up to one year, and/or
- A maximum fine of $5,000.
Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?
Yes. Fortunately, people charged with malicious mischief can challenge it with a legal defense. For example, recall that people are only guilty of this crime if they act without a property owner’s consent. A common defense, then, is for defendants to show that while they may have marked someone else’s property, they did so with that party’s permission.
A criminal defense lawyer can also try to challenge an accusation by showing that the police violated one of the defendant’s constitutional rights. For example, maybe the authorities arrested a defendant without probable cause or coerced a confession. In these cases, a judge can dismiss or reduce any criminal charges because of the violation.
Contact Black & Askerov for Help
While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a graffiti charge, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on various property damage charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these cases. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!