Seattle Police No Longer Eligible To Arrest for Graffiti

Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

( – Earlier this week, a federal judge issued an injunction that prohibits Seattle police from arresting people for graffiti under the city’s property destruction law. In the injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman argued that the “criminalization of free speech” would damage public interest on a greater scale than the benefit that could potentially be received from “criminalizing property damage.”

Seattle Police stated that following this decision of the court, they would not be able to take any action to address property damage. They added while they understand the community’s concerns about this decision, they were bound by the court’s decision. They further noted that each year they normally receive thousands of calls regarding vandalism and other types of property damage, showing that these types of crimes can be significant to members of the community.

This court injunction stems from a lawsuit filed by four people who had been arrested in 2021 for using chalk to write anti-police slogans, including “peaceful protest” and “BLM,” outside a police precinct.

Pechman also clarified that her decision only dealt with the city’s graffiti laws and did not include any other forms of property damage.

On Thursday, following the court’s order, the City Attorney’s Office stated that with the court’s clarification, the Criminal Division of the City Attorney’s Office could start “charging cases of property destruction” again.

Pechman also pointed out how broad the original Ordinance was, and how initially it could have even been used for criminalizing a child’s drawing or writing “‘hello’ on a classmate’s notebook” without their permission.

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