Why are graffiti artists rarely arrested

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For New York City, there're a lot of factors that go into deciding what the charge is for graffiti. To help us sort through the mess, we consulted New York City-based lawyer Gregg Pinto. 

“There’s a lot of discretion with these cases. If you’ve been defacing property for a long time they are going to take a firmer position, but it all depends on the charge. If you are a first time offender, most of the time it’s a misdemeanor, which result with up to a year in jail, but only in rare cases. Most likely, you would have to complete a graffiti removal program, a type of community service reserved for graffiti artists with each borough operating on different guidelines. But if the tag went up in a more high risk or sensitive location, the charge could border on burglary or trespassing charges. If you break into a landmark, it becomes burglary, as burglary is entering any premise with the intent to commit a crime or commit an act criminal mischief. In this case, 'making graffiti' is the crime. Let’s say you try to tag the Statue of Liberty. If you took a boat out there, broke into the entrance, and tagged the crown, they would handle you differently than someone who tags the subway, they would look for everything they could throw at you. Unfortunately, the sensitivity of the crime is in the eye of the beholder. If you commit several acts of vandalism in a neighborhood that has one dominant ethnicity, depending on the tag they could call it a hate crime, but the act would have to be offensive. They also have strict laws on how you sell graffiti making products, so unless you’re establishment is abiding by the proper protocol, you could receive a fine between $250-$500. If you damage the property of another person, which is considered an act of criminal mischief, the crime is considered a Class C felony if the property damage exceeds $250 in damage, or it could be a Class D felony if the damages exceed $1,500. Let’s say you deface someone’s fence. If the person who owns the fence says that it would take $1,200 to replace or fix their fence, you’ll be charged with a restitution of $1,200 rather than being sued.”

In any case, it's better not to get caught.