Is Graffiti Illegal in Minnesota?

What Minnesota graffiti artists need to know before practicing their art form

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on April 19, 2023

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Graffiti art is a polarizing issue. Some think it is a form of artistic expression, like murals or paintings, that should be preserved or even sold in high end art galleries or public places. Others see it as a form of vandalism or an eyesore 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.

Why is Graffiti Illegal?

Minnesota’s damage of property statute prohibits any kind of defacing or vandalism of property.

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 private 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. 

If You’re Facing Criminal Charges, Seek Legal Help

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 private or public property, even if it’s for artistic works, you must find a reputable and experienced attorney

For more information on this area of law, see our overview of criminal defense.

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