One of my bosses today — one of you, the readers — sent me a question by e-mail: “What happens to people who are caught tagging?”

Graffiti has received a substantial amount of attention in Los Angeles and the city even spearheaded a new law for prosecutors. The law “requires those convicted of vandalism to remove the scrawls and, in some cases, keep the tagged surfaces clean for one year,” the Los Angeles Times reported July 2008 after Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the bill.

Supporters of the law said it would be another tool in the battle against graffiti. However, it hasn’t been utilized by the city of San Diego. I asked Gina Colburn, communications director for the City Attorney’s Office, to explain the reasons behind that decision. This is her e-mail response with other punishable actions for caught vandals:

Currently we haven’t used the amended section of the vandalism law as we haven’t changed our offers or sentencing guidelines to include the new terms.  This is because there is currently no court mechanism to monitor offenders if we were to impose such a requirement.

In regards to what happens to the people that are caught for tagging, depending on the facts and circumstances of their current offense and their previous criminal history, there are several terms and conditions that we may ask for when we charge Penal Code 594:

  •  Through Corrective Behavior Institute (court partner), they do graffiti clean-up and volunteer work service.
  •  Pay standard fine plus restitution for damages
  •  Pay $200 to graffiti removal fund ($50 of this is sent as reward money to the citizen reporting the crime)
  •  Per VC 13202.6, 2 year license suspension mandatory
  • Stay away order
  •  Submit to search and seize (4th amendment waiver)
  •  Not to possess any graffiti material or tools
  • And, if the charge is over $400, it can be charged as a felony and prosecuted through the District Attorney’s office.

Please don’t hesitate to keep sending questions to the People’s Reporter today. I will keep reporting into the early evening and any unanswered questions may be forwarded to the most appropriate reporter in the newsroom for further investigation.


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