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:
- 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.
- 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.
- If the property belongs to a utility company and “the damage is likely to cause interruption or impairment of service.”
- If the property belongs to a juror and was done in relation to a court case.
- The property damage is greater than $2,500.
- 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.)
- Plants or crops are damaged.
- 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.