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What Are the Penalties for Auto Theft in Wisconsin?

 Posted on August 25, 2023 in Theft

Untitled---2023-09-01T122134.850.jpgAuto theft is a criminal offense that involves illegally taking or operating someone else's vehicle without their consent. In the state of Wisconsin, auto theft is usually charged as a felony offense, and it can lead to serious penalties for those who are convicted of this crime. If you or someone you know has been charged with auto theft in Milwaukee or other parts of Wisconsin, an experienced lawyer can help you understand the potential consequences and your options for defense.

Operating a Vehicle Without the Owner’s Consent

Under Wisconsin law, it is illegal to drive or operate a motor vehicle without receiving consent from the vehicle’s owner. A person who is accused of taking a vehicle and driving it without permission may face Class H felony charges for a first offense and Class F felony charges for a second offense. Taking and driving a commercial motor vehicle without consent may result in Class G felony charges.

A person who is convicted of a Class H felony related to auto theft may be sentenced to up to six years in prison and may be required to pay a fine of up to $10,000. A Class F felony conviction for a second offense may lead to a sentence of up to 12.5 years and a maximum fine of $25,000. A Class G felony conviction for theft of a commercial vehicle can include a sentence of up to 10 years and a maximum $25,000 fine.

One option for defense against a felony conviction may involve showing that a vehicle was abandoned within 24 hours after it was stolen, without causing damage to the vehicle. In these cases, charges may be reduced to a Class A misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor conviction may result in a maximum prison sentence of nine months and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Auto theft charges may also involve claims that a person removed parts from a vehicle. The removal of any major parts, including the engine, transmission, hood, doors, bumpers, fenders, or other parts with a value of at least $500 may result in Class I felony charges. A Class I felony conviction carries a sentence of up to 3.5 years and a maximum fine of $10,000. Removal of any other parts or components of the vehicle that do not fall into the category of a “major part” may result in Class A misdemeanor charges. In addition to criminal penalties, a person may be required to pay restitution to the vehicle’s owner for any damage caused to the vehicle.


In some cases, accusations of auto theft may also lead to charges of carjacking. Carjacking involves forcefully taking someone's vehicle. If a person allegedly used force or threatened to use force to take a vehicle from the owner or another party, they may be charged with a Class E felony. If a person possessed a dangerous weapon, such as a firearm, when taking a vehicle from someone by force, or threatening to use force, they may be charged with a Class B felony.

A Class E felony conviction carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $50,000. A Class B felony may result in a sentence of up to 60 years. Additionally, even if a person merely  accompanies someone else as a passenger in a vehicle while the other person forcefully takes the car, that person may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.

Contact Our Milwaukee Auto Theft Defense Lawyers

If you have been charged with auto theft in Wisconsin, the experienced Milwaukee, WI criminal defense attorneys at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP are here to help. We can provide guidance during each stage of your case, and we will help you defend against a conviction. To schedule a consultation and discuss your options, contact us at 414-271-1440






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