When is Graffiti a Crime - Wisconsin Criminal Defense Attorney

By Carlos Gamino

Wisconsin law defines the act of graffiti as anyone who “intentionally marks, draws or writes” on another person’s property, or “etches into any physical property of another” with, for example, a knife. The acts must also have been performed without the property owner’s consent, and thus fall under property damage laws. Graffiti can be either a felony or misdemeanor offense.

When is Graffiti a Felony?

Graffiti can become a felony if any of the following conditions can be satisfied:

  1. Highway property that is “damaged in a way that is likely to cause injury to another person”, or cause future property damage. For example, graffiti on a stop sign can become a felony because it could hypothetically result in an accident that causes injury or further property damage.
  2. Any graffiti onto a vehicle that damages it in the same way as described above. For example, graffiti over a turn signal or across the windshield could cause the vehicle to get into an accident, and is, therefore, a possible felony.
  3. If the property belongs to a utility company and “the damage is likely to cause interruption or impairment of service.”
  4. If the property belongs to a juror and was done in relation to a court case.
  5. The property damage is greater than $2,500.
  6. The damage is done on state property, and the property that is damaged “holds significance to the state and its people.” (Graffiti on a public work of art such as a historical statue could satisfy this condition.)
  7. Plants or crops are damaged.
  8. The damage is done with the intent to steal money from an ATM or other machine containing money and the damage is valued between $50 and $2,500.

Some of these felony charges can yield up to 3 years, 6 months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

When is Graffiti a Misdemeanor?

Graffiti is considered a misdemeanor when none of the felony requirements listed above can be proven, but there is still property damage without the owner’s consent. A misdemeanor graffiti conviction carries up to 9 months in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.