The State must prove 4 elements:
- That you intentionally took and carried away movable property of another (The term “intentionally” means that you must have had the “mental purpose” to take and carry away property)
- That owner of the property did not consent to taking and carrying away the property
- That you knew that the owner did not consent
- That you intended to deprive the owner permanently of the possession of the property
Often a defense to this charge is that the accused did not mean to “take and carry away” the item. This is raised quite often in shoplifting situations where the item is in a shopping bag and the person claims that they intended to pay for it but forgot. Another common defense is that a person intended to borrow the item and, therefore, did not intend to “permanently deprive” the owner of the property.
Prosecutors have the discretion to add up the value of all goods and charge the maximum available felony or break up the items to charge several misdemeanors. A charge of theft can have drastic consequences for your future employment or licensing goals. Often employers look very dimly upon those with convictions for offenses involving “crimes of moral turpitude.” Companies and public employers alike either have policies excluding felons or just generally do not trust those with a history of stealing. This is particularly true if the crime was of multiple violations or of a protracted nature. Certain state and federal licenses, such as license to practice law or be a securities broker, may not be available or more difficult to obtain with a conviction for theft, whether misdemeanor or felony.
Wisconsin penalties for Theft:
- Under $2,500: 9 months maximum (misdemeanor)
- $2,500 to $5,000: 18 months (felony)
- $5,000 to $10,000: 3 years (felony)
- $10,000 or greater: 5 years
- Theft is a 5 year felony if the item taken is an animal, obtained by looting, is a firearm, or is taken from an elderly or mentally disable “vulnerable” person, regardless of the item’s value