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Tagging A Building With Graffiti Could Get You Felony Prison Time In North Carolina

Photo: A graffiti painting at an intersection in Asheville
It's Tea
A graffiti painting at an intersection in Asheville

State lawmakers are expected to send Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday a bill that would make graffiti vandalism a felony if performed by repeat offenders.

Under House Bill 552, which was approved unanimously by the House and is expected to get final approval from the Senate, anyone who has two or more prior convictions for graffiti vandalism or violates the law against it at least five times within two months could be charged with a felony. The offender could face up to 39 months in jail.

Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) said on Tuesday that the Buncombe County District Attorney’s office requested the legislation to prosecute by repeat offenders. Apodaca pointed to the case of one man who was being held on a $10,000 bond after a series of offenses in Asheville.

“It’s rampant in Asheville,” Apodaca said in an interview. “Something needs to stop it.”

Graffiti is already punishable as a misdemeanor, and some property owners have reported thousands in damage. But others, including one Raleigh business owner who has seen his property defaced, say a felony is excessive punishment.

Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) said on the Senate floor Tuesday that a felony conviction could be an excessive punishment for a young person.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate to hang a felony around somebody’s neck for this,” Stein said. “They should have to suffer for violating the sanctity of property. But I just think a felony is too much to put on it.”

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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