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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's Illegal for Minors to Purchase Spray Paint in California

So states section 594.1(b) of the California Penal Code, which also criminalizes the sale of spray paint to minors. California is apparently one of five jurisdictions with such a law. The code states, in relevant part:

594.1. (a) (1) It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation, except a parent or legal guardian, to sell or give or in any way furnish to another person, who is in fact under the age of 18 years, any etching cream or aerosol container of paint that is capable of defacing property without first obtaining bona fide evidence of majority and identity.

. . .

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person under the age of 18 years to purchase etching cream or an aerosol container of paint that is capable of defacing property.
(c) Every retailer selling or offering for sale in this state etching cream or aerosol containers of paint capable of defacing property shall post in a conspicuous place a sign in letters at least three-eighths of an inch high stating: "Any person who maliciously defaces real or personal property with etching cream or paint is guilty of vandalism which is punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both."
. . .

(f) Violation of any provision of this section is a misdemeanor. Upon conviction of any person under this section, the court may, in addition to any other punishment imposed, if the jurisdiction has adopted a graffiti abatement program as defined in subdivision (f) of Section 594, order the defendant, and his or her parents or guardians if the defendant is a minor, to keep the damaged property or another specified property in the community free of graffiti, as follows: 
(1) For a first conviction under this section, for 90 days. 
(2) If the defendant has a prior conviction under this section, for 180 days. 
(3) If the defendant has two or more prior convictions under this section, for 240 days. 
This law is part of California's broader statutory scheme restricting spray paint and other tools that can be used for graffiti and other vandalism activities.

This may not be news to my readers who live in California. But because only several days of my life as a minor were spent in California (and because I did not need spray paint to compete in the high school debate tournament that brought me to the state), I confess that I was not aware of this law until quite recently.

The law's broad mandates and punishments for sellers of spray paint strike me as noteworthy. Businesses that sell spray paint are required to post an admonishment to buyers that using spray paint to commit vandalism is a violation of the law. And under subsection (f), sellers of spray paint may be required to clean up graffiti as part of their punishment just as a juvenile caught purchasing spray paint may be required to do so.

I have been spending a lot of time looking at the California Penal Code over the past couple of months, and Penal Code section 594.1 is only one of the laws that has caught my attention. I will likely have additional future posts on interesting California criminal laws as I come across them.

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