Although you might not think that you're hurting someone's property by spray-painting your initials or a picture on the side of it, the owner of the property could feel differently about it. In fact, the owner – and the police for that matter – might see such an act as vandalism. Vandalism – i.e., the destruction, defacing or harming of someone else's property – is illegal and those who are found guilty of the offense will face various criminal punishments.
If you're not sure what constitutes vandalism under the law, here are a few examples of the crime:
- Intentionally throwing a rock into a neighbor's window and breaking it
- Spray-painting the side of a building with your initials or spray-painting your favorite design on a street sign
- Ripping the picture off a billboard
- Drawing a mustache and glasses on a poster next to a bus stop
- Using a permanent marker to draw on a bathroom stall
- Painting graffiti on a sidewalk
Many who commit the crime of vandalism see themselves as graffiti artists and they might – indeed – be creating beautiful art. To make matters more confusing, some graffiti artists are revered and respected even though they began their art careers as vandals and may even have been arrested and convicted of the crime on multiple occasions. Yes, in many cases the line between art and vandalism can be blurred. Call it what you wish. If you've changed the appearance of someone else's property or in some way harmed the property without permission from the owner, then a criminal court will likely find you guilty of vandalism.
If you've been arrested and accused of vandalism, you've been accused of a serious crime that could be punished with fines, jail time or both if your criminal proceedings result in conviction. You will not, however, face any punishments until – and only if – the prosecution can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Source: FindLaw, "Vandalism," accessed June 01, 2018