Graffiti might seem like the kind of offense that results in a ticket. Unfortunately, graffiti charges start as a Class A misdemeanor and work up to a Class I felony in certain circumstances. A misdemeanor A is punishable by 9 months in jail, $10,000.00 in fines, or both. A Class I felony is a classification that can result in 3.5 years in prison, $10,000.00 in fines, or both.
Painting on someone else’s property results in a charge that could send you to prison? That’s certainly shocking. As we’ll discuss later, felony-level graffiti charges are the result of aggravated situations. A felony charge isn’t the result of simply tagging a home, business, or railcar. “Normal” graffiti situations result in misdemeanor-level charges.
Finally, the criminal defense attorneys at Van Severen Law Office, S.C. regularly defend individuals facing criminal charges. Whether this is a simple misdemeanor disorderly conduct, or more serious property crimes, we’re courtroom veterans. Contact our defense lawyers immediately. We’ll schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case and begin planning your defense. If we’re a match, we’ll certainly move forward. Contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202.
Section 943.017 of the Wisconsin Statutes – Graffiti
Section 943.017 of the Wisconsin Statutes provides us the definition of graffiti. The law indicates:
(1) Whoever intentionally marks, draws or writes with paint, ink or another substance on or intentionally etches into the physical property of another without the other person’s consent is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
(2) Any person violating sub. (1) under any of the following circumstances is guilty of a Class I felony:
(a) The property under sub. (1) is a vehicle or a highway, as defined in s. 943.01 (2) (a) 1., and the marking, drawing, writing or etching is of a kind which is likely to cause injury to a person or further property damage.
(b) The property under sub. (1) belongs to a public utility or common carrier and the marking, drawing, writing or etching is of a kind which is likely to impair the services of the public utility or common carrier.
(c) The property under sub. (1) belongs to a person who is or was a grand or petit juror and the marking, drawing, writing or etching was caused by reason of any verdict or indictment assented to by the owner.
(d) If the total property affected in violation of sub. (1) is reduced in value by more than $2,500. For the purposes of this paragraph, property is reduced in value by the amount which it would cost to repair or replace it or to remove the marking, drawing, writing or etching, whichever is less.
(e) The property affected is on state-owned land and is listed on the registry under s. 943.01.
What does all this mean?
The statute certainly includes a lot of words, but one thing is clear: felony-level offenses involve something more than simply spray-painting the side of a building.
A straightforward graffiti case is a Class A misdemeanor.
Secondly, graffiti involving a highway or vehicle which can cause injury or further property damage is a felony. For example, spray-painting a turn arrow where one previously did not exist could fall under this section. Importantly, that arrow would need to potentially result in injury or property damage.
Thirdly, graffiti involving a common carrier that impairs those services is a felony. For example, marking a bunch of United States Postal Service trucks in a way that makes them temporarily unusable falls under this section.
Fourthly, graffiti involving various jurors, in response to a verdict or indictment, is a felony. For example, had someone painted the vehicle of a juror in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, they could be charged for a felony.
Fifth, it’s a felony offense if the defendant’s actions caused more than $2,500.00 in damage.
And finally, this crime is a felony when it occurs on specific state-owned land.
Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1403
Graffiti charges, like all other criminal charges, are comprised of elements. Elements are parts of the crime, and the government must prove each element against the defendant before conviction. Typically each crime has jury instructions which list the jury instructions. This offense is no exception:
Firstly, the defendant marked, drew, or wrote with paint, ink, or another substance on physical property; and
Secondly, the physical property belonged to another person; and
Thirdly, the defendant marked, drew, or wrote on the property without the consent of the owner; and
Fourthly, the defendant acted intentionally; and
Finally, the defendant knew the property belonged to another person and knew that the other person did not consent to the marking, drawing, or writing on the property.
You’ll quickly notice that the jury instructions don’t include the aggravated felony situations. In those situations, the parties/court draft a special jury instruction covering the specific situation. For example, let’s consider the felony graffiti charge based on reducing the affected property’s value by $2,500.00. In that situation, the court will likely draft a special jury instruction asking whether the graffiti reduced the property value by $2,500.00 or more.
How do we beat a graffiti charge?
Firstly, it’s rather shocking when you realize that simple painting or writing on an item is a felony. While these situations are certainly aggravated, they sometimes resolve with lesser charges or non-criminal offenses with the payment of restitution, community service, and other measures.
Our criminal defense attorneys constantly prepare for the possibility of trial. While the previous paragraph discussed pre-trial negotiation and resolving the case short of trial, we recognize that plenty of defendants are innocent. With that, we are prepared to make the government prove its case at trial. Attacking the elements and showing a reasonable doubt at trial is our battle. And if we’re successful, you’ll be found not guilty of the charges you’re facing.
All cases are different. Even all graffiti charges are certainly different. These cases include different witnesses, different issues, different motions, and different tactics throughout trial proceedings. At your initial consultation, we can begin planning your defense.
Finally, contact our criminal defense lawyers for help
At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., our criminal defense attorneys regularly defend individuals facing all kinds of criminal charges. Whether it’s a graffiti charge, or something even more serious, we can help you. Whether it’s attempting to have your charges reduced, filing pre-trial motions seeking a dismissal, or fighting your case through trial, we’ve certainly encountered a situation similar to yours.
Lastly, our answering service is available 24/7 to connect you with one of our criminal defense lawyers. Whether it’s the weekend, after hours, or any holiday, you’ll always be able to speak with a real human. If our attorneys aren’t immediately available, that real human will send out a message requesting an immediate response. We’ll do our best to connect with you immediately to schedule a free consultation. At that free consultation you’ll meet with a graffiti lawyer and begin planning your defense. Contact us now at (414) 270-0202.