Judge clarifies property damage still illegal in Seattle; graffiti will not be prosecuted

SEATTLE — The City of Seattle will be halting its enforcement of property crimes related to graffiti, after a ruling from a U.S. District Court judge Wednesday which described the city’s property destruction laws as too vague.

According to an injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman, the City of Seattle’s property destruction ordinance targets speech, and “poses a real threat to censorship,” particularly as it relates to graffiti.

That’s related to an ongoing case being appealed in district court, Tucson et al v. Seattle, where four people were arrested for writing “BLM,” and expletives against SPD in chalk on protective concrete walls outside the East Precinct.

The preliminary injunction from Judge Pechman says that the city’s existing property damage laws can violate a person’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and that as they’re phrased right now, are “overly vague and overboard.”

Seattle’s Municipal Code 12A.08.020 reads as follows:

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office issued a statement Wednesday saying they will not be filing any property destruction charges under this order now.

They have also filed a motion asking Judge Pechman to reconsider the order.

On Thursday, Judge Pechman issued an order clarifying the injunction, stating the order does not prevent the City or the police from pursuing people that intentionally damage the property of others, making it a gross misdemeanor.

As of Thursday, the injection still applies to the enforcement of defacing property, such as graffiti.

In a brief statement released Thursday, the City Attorney’s Office said they would immediately begin charging cases for property destruction again.

According to the website for the United States District Court, Pechman has served since 1999 for the Western District of Washington.

The Seattle Police Department also issued a statement Wednesday, saying they will no longer “take action on damage to property” under this new order:

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