The Queens District Attorney’s Office announced the indictment of a Dutch man for his role in spraying graffiti on a subway car in Queens and then taking police on a foot pursuit on the subway tracks. The cases focuses attention on the serious charges associated with graffiti in New York including Criminal Mischief, Making Graffiti and Possession of Graffiti Instruments. It also focuses attention on “Graffiti Tourism” a growing phenomenon in this area.
Criminal Mischief in New York is a crime involving damaging property (either intentionally or recklessly) and is generally a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Damaging property in an amount exceeding $250 can be charged as a class “E” Felony punishable by a prison term of up to 4 years and damaging property in an amount exceeding $1500 is a class “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.
The problem is that the threshold amounts have not been changed since 1971 and when the New York State Legislature amended the Grand larceny Statutes in 1986 they forgot to amend the Criminal Mischief statutes. In practice, that means that if you steal property worth $300 you are only guilty of a misdemeanor but if you damage property worth $300 you are guilty of a felony.
In 1992 the New York State Legislature added Making Graffiti and Possession of Graffiti Instruments to the New York State Penal Law. Making Graffiti is a class “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and Possession of Graffiti Instruments is a class “B” misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail.
Making Graffiti involves painting, etching, covering or drawing upon either private or public property with the intent to damage property. Possession of Graffiti Instruments involves possessing tools commonly used to make graffiti such as paint or magic markers under circumstances that show an intent to use those tools to damage property.
New York City and other cities such as White Plains, Yonkers and New Rochelle have worked hard recently to rid their streets of graffiti. Those charged with making Graffiti or other Graffiti related charges often face very aggressive prosecution. It is important to remember that all offenses relating to graffiti are crimes and one charged with any of these offenses should contact an experience New York Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible.