Is Graffiti Art or Illegal?

Minnesotans should think twice before that inspiration gets out of hand


Graffiti is a polarizing issue. Some think it is art that should be preserved—or even sold in high end galleries—while others see it as a nuisance that must be eradicated.

In 2016, Minneapolis’ Graffiti Abatement and Enforcement Program spent $539,420 on graffiti prevention, removal and enforcement. In fact, the city has a website, hotline and an app you can use to report graffiti—and, subsequently, have it removed within 20 days.

The damage of property statute makes any kind of vandalism illegal in Minnesota. There are four degrees of criminal destruction of property laid out within the statute. Each sees increasing penalties based on the severity of the damage.

First degree criminal destruction of property is when someone intentionally causes damage to someone else’s property without their consent that falls under one of these conditions:

  1. The damages cause a reasonable risk of bodily harm
  2. The property belongs to a common carrier—or utility service—and impairs the service to the public
  3. The damage reduces the value of the property by $1,000 or more
  4. The damage caused reduces the value of the property by $500 or more, and the vandal has a prior conviction for criminal destruction of property.

To be charged with second degree criminal destruction of property, one must have intentionally destroyed property because of the property owner's actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, or national origin.

Criminal destruction of property in the third degree is the most charged type of vandalism. If property damages resulting from an intentional act are less than $1,000, you will likely be charged with a gross misdemeanor.

Finally, there is a fourth degree charge, where, if the damage is of a lesser degree, a prosecutor may charge this misdemeanor. These charges usually only include up to 90 days in a local jail, along with fines that generally do not exceed $1,000. 

The legislature takes vandalism very seriously, and has levied intense penalties on vandals. Being convicted comes with a possible sentence of imprisonment for not more than five years, or payment of a fine of not more than $10,000—or both. For a second or a third degree charge, you may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year and a day, or payment of a fine of not more than $3,000—or both.

If you or a loved one is accused of criminal destruction of property, even if it’s for artistic purposes, you must find a reputable and experienced attorney


There are four degrees of criminal destruction. Each sees increasing penalties based on the severity of the damage.

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