General Question

phocks's avatar

Street art: do they have to catch you in the act?

Asked by phocks (137 points ) January 18th, 2011

Just wondering. Do police need to catch you in the act of putting up street art in order to charge you, or can they charge you after the fact?

eg. for those artworks that Banksy has signed his name to, is that proof enough that he made them, and could he be charged if he was exposed?

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8 Answers

Arbornaut's avatar

Depends how much evidence they get on you, I used to write and was arrested for it about ten years back. I know guys who have had their doors kicked in and all their shit confiscated for evidence. Its also going to depend on local laws. I know they use hand writing experts in court.

Jeruba's avatar

Please forgive my naivete: street art is illegal? writing is illegal?

Or are you talking about tagging? graffiti?

Arbornaut's avatar

@Jeruba Graffiti artists are known as writers, tagging is a little different. And yes its illegal unless you have permission from property owners.
I still practice the art, just not illegally. @phocks refers to the artist ‘Banksy’ who is different again as he uses stencils, his work is amazing.

lillycoyote's avatar

I’m guessing it would be the same as with most criminal activities. They don’t have to catch you in the act, they would just have to be able to prove it was you that committed the act. I think that would be tough though, but I think I remember reading about at least one case where they have been able to convict because the “artist” had a very distinctive style and technique and the prosecutors were able to show evidence that linked that particular person to that particular style and that no one else could have done it. Or maybe that was on an episode of Law & Order, or maybe both. :-)

Edit: I just reread your details, and yeah, signing your name to it would make it pretty easy for them to convict you. It’s basically a signed confession.

Arbornaut's avatar

Guys (and girls) who do it prolifically usually have stacks of black books containing evidence. So if the law has reason to suspect them and enough time and resources to get a search warrant etc, its not hard to pin most guys.

963chris's avatar

i think this is a fairly grey + undeveloped area of law as we see street art converge with graffiti + commerce (where a sneaker company may hire a street artist to do a mural or similar). we are seeing the same thing happen with commercial design + fine arts. at this point it seems its a case-by-case basis depending upon numerous factors such as: who the artist is + profile, locale, ability to con/create stories, nature of violation + so forth. for example, ive seen shepard fairey get arrested for one thing in one city (boston) + not another. banksy’s maintained an undercover existence despite 6 figure sales per piece. bleck le rat may be in between. a local crew can say they work for an agency or street crew.

iamthemob's avatar

Anyone interested in this should see Exit Through the Gift Shop – BRILLIANT.

Jeruba's avatar

@lillycoyote, I’m not sure I see that reasoning. What’s to stop me from doing the job and then signing your name to it?

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