While there is no denying that graffiti artists are often quite creative and skilled, there are consequences to their actions. Under Georgia law, graffiti, also known as street art, is considered a form of vandalism. Any person defacing property without consent of the owner can be charged with criminal trespass, if the damage to the property totals less than $500. This is a misdemeanor offense, and is punishable by up to one year in jail and imposed fines. The state also considers the defacement of grave markers, plaques, memorials and monuments of service members in any manner to warrant a criminal trespass charge, regardless of the monetary amount of damage.
Criminal damage, a more serious charge of the two vandalism types, is classified in two degrees. First-degree criminal damage is considered to endanger human life by a malicious act. It includes damage to public works structures, including gas, water and sewer lines. This offense can result in a felony charge with a punishment of up to 10 years in prison and steep fines. A first-degree charge is not determined by any monetary amount of damage.
Second-degree criminal damage can apply to damage of any private property. The amount of damage caused must exceed $500. While also considered a felony, it is a lesser charge, which carries a punishment of up to five years in prison, as well as fines. In addition, regardless of value, if damage is determined to be willful and malicious, with the use of fire or explosives, a second-degree criminal damage charge can also apply.
At the end of the day, what may seem like a harmless act of expressing creativity can land an offender in hot water. All property is owned by someone, and if you do not have an owner’s permission to enter a premises or deface it in any way, you could soon find yourself with a criminal record.