Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Know Your Rights

Ket, facing up to 10 years.
Many people think that they will never get caught for graffiti - because the police simply will never catch them on the street. The problem with this mentality however, is that nowadays police are using a variety of techniques to catch graffiti artists. Ket, for example, is facing 10 years in prison, based largely upon evidence found from the search of his home. Ket, who was writing several books on graffiti at the time, and was quite famous for his graffiti art in the decades before, had many pictures on his computer, graffiti supplies, and lots of pictures. All of this was used against him in court, and he now faces a lengthy court battle and huge amounts of jail time. In August of 2010, a graffiti artist from Merced, Robert Rojas, was thrown in jail on $75,000 bail after "...during a compliance check, investigators found makers, paint, stickers and other vandalism tools." Police also claimed Rojas was in a "graffiti gang." 

Many graffiti writers are also facing 'gang enhancements' if they are convicted as part of a wider crew. Police are also using facebook and myspace to look for artists. And as always, police rely on people snitching and rolling on their friends in the hope of a lighter sentence in order to secure convictions. To police, catching a well know graffiti artist is a notch on their belt. To the politicians, it's a way to appear tough on crime and let developers and those with money know that they stand up for the interests of private property. Below are some tips on keeping you out of danger - or at least from making stupid mistakes.


1.) Do not keep any images of illegal graffiti in your home, on your computer, or in your email inbox. Even some tags of yours in a book or in your house could be used against you. Remember, police document years of graffiti, waiting for the day they finally find you...

2.) Keep graffiti supplies somewhere safe and locked up if possible.

3.) Do not post anything illegal online that can be traced back to you. If you are posting on an online forum, do not include your name or pictures of yourself. You may want to use a proxy server or TOR on your computer as well. Also, NEVER post anything on your facebook or myspace page. Keep your page private if you have one. Police monitor these pages, looking for artists.

4.) . Do not write just one name. If you have a brush with the law or someone else you know does, it may be a good idea to change your name and your style.

5.) While not using cans, remember to take the tops off. It will be harder for the police to pin anything on you this way.

6.) Do not leave cans behind when you paint. Cops fingerprint them these days. Also, you should wear gloves if possible, and throw them away after using somewhere other than your house or where you are staying. The less evidence on your hands, the better.

7.) It's not a good idea to have a lot of graffiti related supplies in your backpack if you are stopped. If you do have a book, make sure there is a lot of stuff in it, so police cannot pin anyone thing on you.

8.) No matter if you are tagging, putting up posters and stickers, or doing a large piece, bring a trusted friend if possible. Discuss and map out what you are going to do and if necessary, how you will escape.

9.) If you are brutalized by the police, document everything that happened on paper or in a recording, take pictures, and then contact a lawyer if possible, or the Modesto Copwatch group for advice. CRLA, Country Rural Legal Assistance also does free consultations and takes cases.

10.) If you do face legal trouble, get friends together to throw fund-raisers, parities, and shows to keep you out of jail! Create support websites and above all, support those in jail!

10 Rules When Dealing with the Police - Flex Your Rights
FAQ Police Interactions - Flex Your Rights
Handling a Police Raid - Crimethinc
What to Do if Stopped by Police - ACLU
Your Rights and the Police - Rose City Copwatch
Know Your Rights Graphic Novel - Midnight Special Law Collective
Security and Counter Surveillance - Warrior Publications
Practical Security Handbook - Activist Security

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