Spray Painting Laws in California

spray painting laws violation

Spray paints are all fun and exciting until you realize they can cost you serious legal trouble!

That’s right. Are you aware of spray paint laws in California? Because if you don’t, then you should, as ignorance of the law is no excuse. It is imperative to know that selling spray paints to minors or conducting graffiti has serious penalties under penal clauses of California state laws like fines and imprisonment or even both!

Let’s understand what spray paints are,

“Any spray device, can, or bottle that contains dye, ink, paint and a propellant which it dispenses under pressure through pumps in a fine mist or spray is known as spray paints.”

Spray paints are often considered fast-drying painting tools that provide even finishing; however, that’s not what spray paints are all about. Spray paints possess volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to environmental crises, human respiratory problems, and vandalism which is why California state laws regulates the possession and use of spray paint. Understanding these regulations is important to avoid potential legal trouble and fines.

Therefore, in this blog we will discuss California’s spray painting laws and penalties.

Why Implement Laws of Spray Painting

Spray paint is a type of aerosol paint that is used for a variety of purposes, including graffiti art, street art, and home decor. In California, however, spray paint is subject to strict regulations to prevent minors from using it for vandalism. Spray paint laws in California are designed to control the sale and possession of spray paint, particularly among minors.

California Spray Paint Laws

Spray paint laws falls into vandalism under California Penal Code Section 594 which deals with the sale and use of spray paint regulations and its legal consequences upon violation. The objective is to promote the minor’s safety and prevent them from using spray paint for graffiti and vandalism.

Here are a few key points of spray paint laws in California,

  • It is restricted to selling spray paint to buyers under 18.
  • The retailers are bound to display spray paints in a locked cabinet
  • The spray paint must contain a warning label directing the way to use it
  • It levitates all the legal penalties against the intent to deface other’s properties

Restriction on Selling to Minors

Under California state laws, the penal clause under section 594.1(a)(1)4 makes it illegal to sell spray paint to minors and defines it as,

“This subdivision shall not apply to the furnishing of six ounces or less of etching cream or an aerosol container of paint to a minor for the minor’s use or possession under the supervision of minor’s parents, guardian, instructor, or employer.”

Violation of this subdivision can result in fines and imprisonment of up to 90 days for first-time offenders.

Minors Cannot Possess Spray Paint.

As per section 594.1(5)(b) of California Penal Code,

It shall be considered unlawful and illegal for a minor to purchase and possess etching cream or an aerosol container of paint that is capable of defacing property.

Minors are often seen damaging and defacing public and private properties intentionally, not knowing it’s a crime. While it is imperative to know this act of defacing other’s belongings is called vandalism and is a serious offense punishable by spray paint laws in California.

In many cases, spray paints are associated with graffiti vandalism because it is cheap, easy to use, and spread quickly. Resultantly, it is used to leave a message or mark on buildings, bridges, and walls, which damages valuable public properties.

Considering rising destruction, the authorities discourage the possession of spray paints by minors, and therefore, strict laws have been imposed against them.

 References and Guides for a Quick Look for Spray Painting Laws in California

  1. California Legislative Information: Penal Code Section 594.3: This is the official California law that outlines the penalties for vandalism with graffiti or other inscribed materials, including spray paint.
  2. California Air Resources Board: Consumer Products Program: Information on the California Air Resources Board’s Consumer Products Program, which regulates the volatile organic compound (VOC) content of consumer products, including spray paint.
  3. California Retailers Association: Selling Spray Paint – A Retailer’s Guide: This guide provides information for retailers on the laws and regulations around selling spray paint in California, including age restrictions and storage requirements.
  4. Graffiti Hurts: Understanding Graffiti Laws in California: This website provides an overview of the graffiti laws in California, including those related to spray paint. It includes information on penalties for violating these laws and resources for preventing and cleaning up graffiti.
  5. California Courts: Criminal Penalties for Vandalism:  This page provides information on the criminal penalties for vandalism in California, including graffiti offenses. It includes information on fines, community service, and possible jail time for offenders

Penalties for Violating Spray Paint Laws in California

Graffiti vandalism is a serious offense that is dealt with under section 594 of the California Penal Code. According to this code,

Any property, signs, fixtures, or vehicles belonging to the public entity that is violated shall be penalized with imprisonment for up to 1 year. The fine shall be estimated according to the value of the damage.

For instance,

  • If the amount of damage is $400, the fine shall not be more than $10,000
  • If the amount of damage is less than $400, the fine shall not be more than $1000

Penalties Payable by Legal Guardian

If the minor is declared responsible for committing juvenile vandalism and is personally not able to pay the fine himself, the parent or legal guardian of a minor shall be liable to pay on his behalf and can even serve jail time as responsibility for juvenile crime up to 1 year, depending on the severity of the offense. However, the court may waive a fine upon showing good cause by the parent.

Exceptions to California Spray Paint Laws

While specific laws prevail regarding the selling and possession of spray paints to discourage vandalism and damage to public entities, there are some exceptions to it.

  • Individuals who are sound-minded, above 18 years old (adults), and have government identification are excepted by these laws. They can buy or use spray paints for official purposes.
  • People who require spray paints for legitimate purposes, such as painters and artists, are excepted from restrictions.
  • Spray paints have great consumption in the industrial sector, like marking, labeling, corrosion protection, and safety marking. Hence industrial and agricultural purposes are also excepted.

Examples of Spray Paint Exceptions

  1. A person who owns a garage and often requires spray paints for auto-mobile servicing is exempted from spray paint laws in California (unless they abuse the usage)
  2. Artists like to think out of the box by blending multiple colors, layering, achieving fantastic finishing, and creating a complex designs. And to achieve this goal, spray paint is a popular tool which makes it exempted from spray paint laws in California.
  3. Agriculture is another example of its exemptions; farmers require spray paints to mark the ears of cattle for their identification, or in some cases, they use spray paints for marking irrigation lines in fields.

Quick Review: Spray Painting Laws in California

  1. Minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from purchasing spray paint.
  2. Stores must keep spray paint behind the counter or in a locked cabinet to prevent theft.
  3. It is illegal to sell spray paint to anyone under the age of 18.
  4. Individuals who purchase spray paint must show valid identification.
  5. Certain locations, such as schools, religious institutions, and public buildings, prohibit the use of spray paint.
  6. Violating spray paint laws can result in legal consequences, including fines and possible jail time.
  7. The California Air Resources Board regulates the VOC content of spray paint under its Consumer Products Program.
  8. Graffiti or vandalism with spray paint is punishable under Penal Code Section 594.3.


California, home to world-famous attractions, is known for its alluring scenery of mountains, beaches, forests, deserts, and captivating infrastructure. And to maintain the beauty and protection of valuable public belongings, the state never settles for less. The spray paint laws in California are of its prime examples.

Moreover, the abuse of spray paints has a significant negative impact on the environment, natural habitats, and eco-system. For instance, graffiti on trees can harm plants and life of animals, while volatile organic compounds in spray paints can contribute to air pollution and respiratory issues among humans.

Therefore, to avoid legal penalties, promote public safety, and protect the environment, it is important to become a law-abiding citizen and contribute a positive role in society by following spray paint laws in California.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *