Is Stickering Graffiti Illegal? Will You Get Caught?

Photo of author
Written By Sam Davis Ph.D.

Sticker Crypt is the internet's premier source of free advice for artists and small business owners! 

You see it everywhere these days, stickers are popping up all over town. You can't walk down the street without seeing random stickers plastered to the walls of buildings and lampposts. Graffiti has always been around, but what is considered graffiti vs. art is very subjective and changes from town to town.

Is putting stickers vandalism? Is sticker tagging illegal? Is it illegal to stick stickers in public places? In general, putting stickers in public places is illegal and breaks the law. However, the sticker graffiti laws are only enforced when something becomes a nuisance. Here are some tips to keep your public sticker practices safe and fun.

Many People Put Up Signs And Nothing Happens

The reality is that many people put up signs, flyers, business cards, and stickers, all over public places. If you have permission from the private property owner, obviously, it's legal to do so.

The legality of putting stickers on stop signs or other locations like a public utility pole or public garbage bin is much more gray. City ordinances often define what is allowed, how long it's allowed to be hung up, and how to get permission to do so. You'll likely be breaking a law if you put up a public sticker, but the change of you getting prosecuted for your printed material is rare.

No police officer is going to charge a kid with a missing puppy with graffiti for hanging their signs on street signs or in a bus shelter. But, a police officer may begin to ask questions or give out tickets for excessive “unauthorized postings” in public places.

sticker, wall, coloured

Safe Sticker Placement

The ideal place to put a sticker is private property where you have permission to do so. The second most ideal place is somewhere where it's not a nuisance: it doesn't block access to understanding a road sign or parking meter. Bus shelters often receive a lot of stickers, and it rarely impacts their function.

On the other hand, placing stickers in a way that obscures vision at an intersection or obscures a sign might not be legal and could get you in trouble. So, if you're unsure about something, don't do it. And, if you must do it – do it without being observed.

Some people will put stickers on:

  • A stop sign
  • A traffic control device
  • On signs in a city owned grassy area
  • On a highway fence
  • On a permanent or temporary traffic barrier
  • On a bus shelter or parking meter
  • On a metal telephone pole, awning post, or traffic stanchion

Penalties For Public Stickers

Prosecuting someone for public sticker art and signs is rare, but would most likely be a misdemeanor. You could receive a separate violation for each sticker placed, with an additional penalty imposed. But again – this type of prosecution is very rare.

Just be aware that truly public stickers, especially on a traffic sign, is something that you do at your own risk. You could face a fine, warning, or worse – so don't do something stupid that you might regret.

Where is the best public sticker culture?

New York City is a great example of public art like stickers. People often place a sticker in a public place as a way to advertise their website or telephone number. Trading stickers is even common in some subcultures, so keep an eye out for opportunities like that.

My personal favorite is stop sign stickers. Stickers on stop signs rarely obscure the “stop” sign part, but will add to it. Lately, I've been seeing a lot of “stop eating animals” stickers on stop signs. But I've also seen “Don't stop believing” and other song lyrics, too. It's good for a laugh when you're driving safely.

Any final thoughts on public stickers?

If you're at all concerned about prosecution, protect yourself through any means whatsoever. If you put stickers on signs, make sure it's legal. If identifying information appears on your sticker, take it off. Don't be stupid when it comes to public art.

Want even more intel?

My upcoming book, "Bulletproof Marketing for Digital Artists" will have everything you want - and more - on digital art and building your digital business. Preorder today, and be the first to get your copy in January 2024!

Preorder Now