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When Is Theft a Felony Offense in Wisconsin?

 Posted on March 09, 2020 in Criminal Defense

Milwaukee, WI criminal defense lawyer for theft chargesBy Attorney Nicole Masnica

As you can imagine, taking another’s property without permission is a crime in Wisconsin – one that can be prosecuted as a municipal citation or criminal charge. The state’s statutory scheme that controls property crimes is Chapter 943. Within that section of the criminal statutes, you will find a variety of crimes, from credit card fraud to armed robbery to identity theft. You will also find two provisions titled “Theft” (Wis. Stat. §943.20) and “Retail Theft” (Wis. Stat. §943.50). Whether allegations of theft result in misdemeanor or felony charges, they are not something to take lightly, as they can result in serious legal consequences that will impact your future in a variety of ways. When facing these types of charges, it is crucial to obtain representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney. 

Theft Charges Under Wisconsin Law

According to Wis. Stat. §943.20, a criminal theft is one of the following acts:

  • Intentionally taking the property of another individual without their consent and with the intent of depriving the owner.
  • Converting another individual’s property from theirs to one’s own without their knowledge or consent, including in a business setting.
  • Failure to give back an individual’s personal property as required by a lease or rental agreement.
  • Obtaining title to another individual’s property by deception or false representation with the intention to defraud that person.                                         

In Wisconsin, if the victim is an individual, theft may be charged as a felony when the value of the property stolen amounts to $2,500 or more. There are a variety of felony classes implicated by the value of the goods stolen, with a maximum possible penalty of twelve and a half years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

If the property stolen is worth less than $2,500, one may be charged with a class A misdemeanor, placed on probation, punished by a fine of up to $10,000, and sent to jail for up to nine months. 

Retail Theft Charges Under Wisconsin Law

Theft from a retail store is its own separate criminal charge, and it may surprise you that the penalties may be more severe than if you stole directly from an individual. 

Under Wis. Stat. §943.50, there are a variety of ways to commit the crime of retail theft. It is obvious that stealing an item from a store is a retail theft, but so is altering or swapping a price tag, concealing merchandise in a bag or on your person, and interfering with a theft protection device on an item. This means you do not even have to get out of the store with merchandise to be charged with retail theft, and you will be subject to the same penalty structure as if you had.

The penalties for retail theft escalate from a misdemeanor to a felony much more quickly as well.

  • Retail theft involving merchandise valued at $499 or less may be charged as a criminal misdemeanor, carrying with it a maximum penalty of nine months jail and a $10,000 fine.
  • If the property stolen is valued between $500 and $5,000, you may face a Class I felony, up to three and a half years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. 
  • If the property stolen is valued between $5,000 and $10,000, you may face a Class H felony, up to six years in a prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. 
  • If the property stolen is valued above $10,000, you may face a Class G felony, a 10-year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $10,000. 

Contact a Milwaukee, Wisconsin Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you have been charged with a property crime in Wisconsin, you will want to take steps to protect your rights, your freedom, and your reputation. Contact a Milwaukee theft defense lawyer from Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP. We will walk you through your charges and the possible penalties you may face, and we will provide exceptional representation both in and outside of the courtroom. Call our office at 414-271-1440 today.




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