What is the Difference Between Graffiti and Vandalism in Las Vegas?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Oct 13, 2016 | 0 Comments

If you saw a building in Las Vegas that had been “tagged” with spray paint or was otherwise defaced, you could say that the building had been vandalized and covered with graffiti. But there is a difference between graffiti and vandalism in Las Vegas. They are actually two separate and distinct criminal offenses in Nevada.


Nevada graffiti laws define “graffiti” as “any unauthorized inscription, word, figure or design that is marked, etched, scratched, drawn, painted on or affixed to” public property or the private property of another which defaces the property. (NRS 206.005). This includes all type of property, not just buildings. You can be charged with a graffiti offense for tagging a lawn, a car, a billboard, or even someone's purse.

In certain locations in Las Vegas, simply carrying “graffiti implements” with the intent to use them to place graffiti on or deface property is a crime. (NRS 206.335)

Graffiti penalties in Nevada depend largely on the value and nature of the property that is defaced, how old you are and whether you are a gang member, and whether it is a first or subsequent offense.

For example, there are specific and distinct penalties for tagging certain types of property in Las Vegas. Individuals convicted of impairing public utilities in Nevada graffiti crimes or putting graffiti on Nevada historic sites will face stiffer penalties. Additionally, the law imposes extra prison time for gang graffiti in Nevada.


The definition of vandalism in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada is much broader than graffiti. It includes any act in which someone willfully or maliciously destroys or injures any real or personal property of someone else. (NRS 206.310). Examples of vandalism include:

  • Smashing car or building windows
  • Breaking a statue in a park
  • Tearing down or damaging a billboard or sign
  • Egging someone's house
  • Pouring acid on crops

As with Nevada's graffiti laws, you can be charged and convicted of a vandalism crime in Las Vegas even if you don't actually destroy or injure anything. Simply having the intent to vandalize can result in a conviction if you willfully and maliciously enter the property of another without their consent and with the intent to destroy or injure their property. (NRS 206.040).

The penalties for vandalism in Las Vegas, like those for graffiti, depend on what the property was, how much damage was caused, who and how old the accused is, and how many previous offenses are involved. There are also specific penalties for vandalism that involves:

  • Impairment of public utilities
  • Historic and prehistoric sites
  • Religious, burial, educational, transportation, and community sites
  • Posting bills or posters
  • Vandalizing property facing foreclosure

A conviction for graffiti or vandalism in Las Vegas comes with stiff penalties. If you are facing graffiti or vandalism charges, a skilled Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer can help protect your rights and assert an aggressive defense on your behalf. Give us a call today to discuss your matter. (Read our related article, "What are the penalties for vandalizing a mosque in Las Vegas?")



About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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