Graffiti is a problem in Colorado and many other states. While some consider it art, it is often illegal and can lead to stiff penalties for the accused. If you have been charged with this crime, educating yourself on the relevant laws is important.
The penalties for graffiti in Colorado
Graffiti in Colorado is classified as a property crime. As such, spray painting, marker writing and “tagging” property without the permission of the property’s owner are taken very seriously. This crime is often categorized as “criminal mischief,” in which another party’s property has been purposely damaged. Penalties include up to:
- Six months in jail and a $750 fine for damaging property worth up to $300
- A year in jail and a fine of $1,000 for damaging property valued between $300 and $750
- A year and a half in jail and a fine of $5,000 for damaging property valued between $750 and $1,000
- A year and a half in jail and a fine of $100,000 for damaging property valued between $1,000 and $5,000
- Three years in jail and a fine of $100,000 for damaging property valued between $5,000 to $20,000
- Six years in jail and a fine of $500,000 for damaging property valued between $20,000 and $100,000
- 12 years in jail and a fine of $750,000 for damaging property valued between $100,000 and $1,000,000
- 24 years in jail and a fine of $1,000,000 for damaging property valued over $1,000,000
Common law property principals
Regarding how the crime of graffiti is adjudicated in court, common law principles come into play. While graffiti artists would probably prefer their attempts at artwork to be protected as their own intellectual property, those rights do not supersede those of property owners.
A lack of consent to make alterations to property owned by another party is illegal and considered a form of vandalism. With consent, the artwork may be legally protected. Without it, the artist may even be forced to remove the graffiti.
Unless you have express permission from the property owner, graffiti is almost always a crime under the Colorado legal code and common law. You could face serious jail time and fines if convicted.