Other than theft and burglary, graffiti and similar forms of vandalism are some of the most common property crimes in New York. When people think of graffiti, they often think of spray paint and gang tags, although many other actions can also qualify as graffiti. Anything from carving a name into a bathroom stall to writing over an ad with a permanent marker could qualify.
New York has extensive laws in place that explore what constitutes graffiti and what does not. Under New York law, graffiti is the result of any kind of intentional visual defacement, whether it involves applying paint, marker or other colorants, or removing color through bleach. Graffiti also includes the use of etching equipment, ranging from drill bits to sandpaper.
What purpose graffiti serves can vary. Sometimes, it is used to express hate or threaten violence. Other times, youthful offenders may assert that they were there or use it as a way to declare their affection for a romantic interest. For some people, it is an artistic expression. Regardless of the intention behind the graffiti, the more it costs to remedy, the more significant the consequences.
Defacing property with graffiti is a form of criminal mischief
Under New York law, graffiti and similar forms of vandalism are criminal offenses that can result in criminal charges. However, the charges come in varying degrees depending on the amount of damage the graffiti causes.
Small works of graffiti that are easy to remove will likely result in 4th degree criminal mischief charges. Provided that repairs to the damaged surface cost $250 or less, 4th degree charges will result. However, if the damage costs more than $250 to repair, the charges increase to third-degree criminal mischief.
Broken windows or extensive paint could result in more serious charges. Damage that will cost more than $1,500 to repair will result in 2nd degree criminal mischief charges. 4th degree charges are Class A misdemeanors. 3rd degree charges are Class C felonies, while 2nd degree criminal mischief is a Class D Felony. A Class A misdemeanor can carry up to a year in jail. A Class E felony could mean up to four years in jail, while a Class D Felony could mean five years of incarceration.
You have options when facing criminal mischief charges
It may be possible to work with the victim to have them drop the charges if you make restitution and perform community service. Other times, it may be possible to defend against allegation of criminal mischief. Sitting down to talk about your situation and the pending charges with a New York criminal defense attorney can help you decide what approach might be best in your situation.