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Wisconsin Theft Laws

Theft is a property crime

Under Wisconsin law, theft is a property crime. A theft occurs when a person intentionally and knowingly takes and carries away the property of another without consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of that property.

Proving Wisconsin Theft Crime

An Intent to Steal

The crime of theft requires that the person taking the property must have intended to take it.

The classic example involves a restaurant scene where two men are dining on a rainy night. They own identical umbrellas, which they place in the umbrella stand upon their separate arrivals. When the first man leaves, he accidentally takes the other man's umbrella. Was it a theft? No, because the quick-eater made an honest mistake when he accidentally took the other man's umbrella.

However, if the man ate quickly so as to be able to take the other man's umbrella (perhaps because his own had a hole in it), then it is a theft. Under Wisconsin law, the thief must possess the requisite mental object - the mental intent and purpose - to commit a theft.

The Act of Taking & Carrying Away Property

Typically, a theft crime involves the movement of property from one location to another (such as from Madison to Fitchburg or Eau Claire Wisconsin), or from one building to another building; however, theft, by definition, can occur even if the movement is slight, so long as the intent was to convert the property from its owner to the thief.

Property Defined

Property is defined by Wisconsin law as any item of personal, commercial, or industrial ownership including items such as jewelry or clothing, real property such as a home, intellectual property such as trade secrets, ideas or concepts, services such as cellular telephone services, money, and institutional property such as library books and materials.

Knowingly Lacking Consent - Taking Without Permission

Under Wisconsin law, to prove a theft, the prosecution must prove that there was no consent given by the property owner or the person in rightful possession of the property for the thief to take the property.  The thief must have known that she did not have the property owner's consent to take the property.

Permanent Removal of Property

Wisconsin law provides that not only must it have been the thief's intent and purpose to take the property, but she also must have intended that the owner of the property never get that property back.

Ownership or Possession

The crime of theft under Wisconsin law requires that the property must have been in the possession of another. The law does not state that the one in possession of the property before it was taken must have had a right to possess that property, and the question of ownership and possession has been raised in many trials.

Shoplifting or Retail Theft

Shoplifting is the intentional taking and carrying away of property that belongs to the store without having paid for it or having obtained permission to remove it with the intent to permanently deprive the store of that property.  Shoplifting is an "intent" crime.  Intent requires that the defendant acted with the purpose to shoplift. If an individual intentionally alters the indicated price or value of the item, or takes and carries away an item it can be charged as shoplifting.  Even if the defendant conceals or simply retains possession of the item it can be shoplifting. Intentional concealment of merchandise beyond the last station for receiving payments is evidence of intent to shoplift. Tampering with theft detection devices is shoplifting (Wis Stat. 943.50). If the value of the item(s) is more than $500 the shoplifting is charged as a felony, if it is less than $500 it is a misdemeanor.   

Party to the Crime of Theft

Any act towards the commission of the theft can be charged as party to the crime. 

Wisconsin Penalties - Prison or Jail Time & Fines - For Theft Convictions

Under Wisconsin statutory law, theft is a crime. Whether a theft is prosecutable and punishable as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the value of the stolen property, from whom the property was taken, and the nature of the stolen property.

Generally, theft can be charged in the manners below, however, additional penalties apply if the stolen property was a firearm, if multiple financial crimes were committed, or if the victim was an elderly person or had other mental incapacity.

If the value of the money, funds, credits, securities, assets, property, proceeds from sale, or loan does not exceed $500.00, then the theft can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 9 months, or both), unless the person was previously convicted of a misdemeanor or felony for trespass, theft, possession of items to commit a burglary, unauthorized release of animals or wire fraud, then a Class I felony (punishable by a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 3 years and 6 months, or both).

If the value of the stolen property exceeds $500, but is less than $10,000, then it is a Class H felony (punishable by a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 6 years, or both).

If the value of the stolen property exceeds $10,000, but is less than $100,000, then it is a Class G felony(is punishable by a fine not to exceed $25,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 10 years, or both).

If the value of the stolen property exceeds $100,000, then it is a Class E felony (punishable by a fine not to exceed $50,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 15 years, or both).

Criminal Law - Wisconsin Theft Defense Lawyer

Attorney Mike Rudolph has represented many individuals who have been charged with theft.

If you believe you are being investigated for a theft, if you have been questioned about a theft that you may have been involved in, or if you have been charged with a crime of theft, please call the law offices of Attorney Mike Rudolph.

Contact Rudolph Law Today!

Call 920-730-8533


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