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What's the law on graffiti in Spain?

The Local (news@thelocal.com)
The Local ([email protected]) • 17 Feb, 2023 Updated Fri 17 Feb 2023 08:22 CEST
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Many Spanish cities are full of graffiti ranging from indecipherable scribbles to artistic murals. Some are legal, others not. We break down the law on graffiti in Spain, the penalties, and what do if someone graffities your property.

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The narrow alleyways of the 'old town', bridges and underpasses, train and metro carriages. These are just some of the places you'll probably see graffiti in Spanish cities.

Though there are some designated graffiti areas in Spain where local artists are allowed or even encouraged to use, often grafiteros (graffiti artists in Spanish) go for undesignated areas, something that sparks the seemingly age old debate about graffiti: is it vandalism, as many think, or is it a form of art?

READ ALSO: What’s the law on cannabis in Spain?

There's certainly some graffiti that requires serious artistic talent, whereas there are others that seem to be pointless scribbles. If these are done on public buildings, such as libraries or hospitals, they're seen as vandalism, as they are on private businesses, and art or not, graffiti can be a bothersome and expensive problem for many people. 

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What does Spanish law say about graffiti?

In simple terms: it depends and exists in a legal grey area dealt with on a municipal level. The penalties for doing it depend on a number of aggravating factors: this can be where the graffiti is, how much the cleanup costs, if the grafitero is a repeat offender, and the historical and cultural significance of the site graffitied. 

Generally, most municipalities differentiate between daños (creating serious damage) that require professional removal or repair, and deslucimiento (defacing public property) that is less difficult or expensive to remove.

Article 323 of Spain's Penal Code states: 

1. Anyone who causes damage to property of historical, artistic, scientific, cultural or monumental value, or to archaeological, terrestrial or underwater sites, shall be punished by imprisonment for between six months and three years or a fine (sentences two years or under do not usually end up in prison time in Spain).

2. If the damage is particularly serious or which has affected property whose historical, artistic, scientific, cultural or monumental value is especially relevant, a penalty higher in degree than that indicated in the previous section may be imposed.

3. In all these cases, the judges or courts may order, at the expense of the perpetrator of the damage, the adoption of measures aimed at restoring, as far as possible, the damaged property.

In simple terms the Spanish law seems to be applied as follows: if you're caught, doing graffiti is punishable by fines or even prison time; if you do it in a place of historical, artistic, scientific, cultural or monumental significance the penalty will be higher, perhaps prison; and you'll likely have to pay for (or even do, depending where in Spain you are) the clean-up costs.

READ ALSO: What’s the law on prostitution in Spain?

Generally speaking, in Spain, the implementation of the law suggests that doing graffiti in a place of historical and cultural significance can be prosecuted as a crime, whereas elsewhere it is considered an administrative fine.

In March of 2022, the Spanish Supreme Court made this distinction when it jailed a grafitero for five months who graffitied a sculpture by Eduardo Chillida in the Plaza del Rey in Madrid, and fined him €1,376 to pay for the repairs.

On places of historical and cultural significance, the laws seems clear and can be severe and land you in prison.

Penalties?

For smaller pieces of graffiti in 'non-significant' places (deslucimiento), these are considered administrative fines. But like many aspects of Spanish law, the powers for deciding and implementing these fines are often delegated down the autonomous communities.

Generally speaking, they can range anywhere from €300 to €3,000, but can be halved if you pay up in a certain amount of time or doubled if you're a repeat offender.

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Madrid

In Madrid, the town hall increased top rate of fine to €3,000 in 2020, and the others range from:

Between €500 to €1,000 for graffiti on businesses and commercial areas.

Between €300 to €600 on walls, pillars and doors, and other places considered culturally insignificant such as bridges.

Barcelona

Fines in Barcelona generally range from between €300 and €500, and the amount doubles for repeat offenders. La Generalitat government would, of course, be within its rights to fine up to the maximum €3,000 or even jail people caught doing graffiti.

Valencia

Valencia upped its fines as part of graffiti crackdown that began in 2022, and includes fines for not only traditional spray paint all inks, paints, stickers, or vinyl.

Fines in Valencia can be up to €750 and the offender can be ordered to clean up the mess themselves.

Mallorca

In Palma, the local government have proposed raising the fines to the €3,000 maximum from May 2023 as part its security and cleaning drive in the 'Palma 2035' strategy.

After the mountain monument Serra de Tramuntana in Mallorca was vandalised by graffiti artists in 2022, special fines were introduced to protect the site ranging between €6,001 up to €1 million, but in the city fines are generally in line with other cities.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

In Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, fines for graffiti can be up to €1,500.

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Alicante

The Alicante provincial government also recently upped its fine range from to €1,500 to €3,000 and may force the perpetrator to clean and restore the defaced property themselves. 

What can I do if someone graffities my property?

According to Spanish lawyer, Luciana Torrents, from legal firm ARAG, "graffiti made without the authorisation of the owners, on the façade or other common element... are considered as acts of vandalism and can entail civil liability."

If you can find the culprit, la comunidad (like the homeowner's association within a building) must vote and agree on making a formal complaint procedure.

READ ALSO: ‘La comunidad’: What property owners in Spain need to know about homeowners’ associations

If you live in shared building, sometimes la comunidad insurance covers this type of damage, so if it isn't possible to identify the perpetrator the cleanup can be paid for that way.

If you can't catch the perpetrator and don't have insurance, a meeting of la comunidad must agree on how to repair the damage and how much should be taken from the communal fund.

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The Local ([email protected]) 2023/02/17 08:22

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