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Theft Crimes and Penalties in Wisconsin

Understanding Theft Crimes in Wisconsin

When we are young, it’s simple to understand theft – if you take someone else’s property without their knowledge or approval, it’s theft. As adults, the definition becomes cloudy and more complex. Theft is no longer limited to taking another person’s possessions, there is identify theft and financial theft to consider, for example.

Though we can all agree that taking something that does not belong to you is considered theft, there are different types of theft and different penalties for theft crimes depending on the type of theft committed.

Examples of Wisconsin Theft Crimes

There are many types of theft that are recognized by the State of Wisconsin. They include:

  • Burglary & Robbery. Burglary requires the perpetrator to have unlawfully broken into another person’s home or property in order to commit a criminal offense. The incident becomes a Robbery when the theft is committed with weapons and/or force or the threat of force. Robbery does not require unlawful breaking and entering.
  • Extortion. Extortion is similar to robbery in that both acts involve the acquisition of money, services, or property through the use of force, threats, and/or intimidation. In robbery, the threat is immediate, but in extortion, it can be immediate or involve a threat to take place at a future point in time.
  • Larceny. Larceny is the taking and removal of property in order to deprive the owner of the property permanently.
  • Embezzlement. Often considered a “white collar crime” embezzlement happens when someone who has permission or is authorized to handle, preserve, or protect your property takes it for their own personal use. It is most often seen in fiduciary breaches such as if a fund manager “skims” money from your account for his/her own use. Another example is overcharging customers and pocketing the difference.
  • False Pretenses. Theft can occur through false pretenses when a person obtains goods/services due to false representation with the intention of defrauding another.
  • Lost or Mislaid Property. If you keep property that you know has been lost or misplaced, it is considered theft. Unless the property was permanently abandoned by its owner, the law requires you to take action to return it.

Defining Property

All of the above examples of theft crimes take into account “property” which may include both moveable and immovable items, such as:

  • Real property. This includes items that cannot be moved, such as land and anything that is attached to it like buildings.
  • Tangible property. Tangible property is moveable and may include things like cars, jewelry, electronics, books, and other personal items.
  • Documents include stock certificates and bonds, money, and anything that represents something of monetary value.
  • Information is valuable in today’s digital age. The types of information that can be stolen include personal identification and data, company information, secrets, or intellectual property, or data and information that is contained on computers or storage devices.
  • Personal services. Services represent property that can be stolen. Examples include food service, car or appliance repairs, or hotel accommodations.

Penalties for Theft in Wisconsin

Theft crimes carry different penalties, which are highly dependent on the circumstances surrounding the theft including the type of property taken, its value, and how it was taken (was force used?) All of these factors and more will be taken into account by the police to determine if the crime is a felony or misdemeanor. Felonies are much more serious, resulting in heavy fines and possible prison time while misdemeanors have smaller fines and only local jail time.

Defense Against Theft Crimes Charges is Possible

Every type of theft has different elements that need to be proven for guilt to be determined, but in nearly every case, it must be proven that the accused had intent to commit the crime.

Defense against theft crimes often involves disproving intent, but may also include a defense of coercion, intoxication, or other strategies. Your best defense against theft crimes is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney from Eisenberg Law Offices in Madison. Our skilled attorneys can examine the evidence against you, explain your legal options, and build a strong defense for you.

If you are facing charges of theft, contact Eisenberg Law Offices at 608-256-8356 or to arrange a free and confidential consultation.




Eisenberg Law has successfully represented our clients in thousands of Personal Injury, Criminal Defense and Family Law Cases during our 30-plus years in business.