Van Wagner & Wood Home Page
Van Wagner & Wood Attorney Chris Van Wagner Attorney Tracey Wood
Madison WI   
Toll Free   

In the largest known military base theft case, Attorney Tracey Wood's client was acquitted (found not guilty) of federal charges alleging conspiracy and conversion. Three other defendants were convicted and sentenced to Federal prison. Fort McCoy Military Vehicle Theft Acquittal

Theft: Identity theft, property theft, intellectual property theft, auto theft

Repeatedly Voted Madison's Best Drug Crimes DefenseDrunk Driving OWI Defense AttorneysVery Serious Felony Charges (Murder, Sexual Assault, Drugs)Wisconsin State & Federal ChargesWhite Collar Crime DefenseWisconsin Attorneys - Criminal & DUI Defense


wisconsin theft laws

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, and institutional property such as library books and materials.

Property can also mean money, but money creates different sets of circumstances. If the serial numbers of the money in question have been recorded, then the exact dollar bills can be identified, otherwise they cannot. Money is then property to a person who is able to prove that it is uniquely their dollars. One exception to the serial number rule would be collector's coins. If a coin is so rare that few exist, the potential to define it as unique property also exists.

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. And 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 he 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. (If the property is already in the possession of the person seeking to convert it into their own personal property, then the theft may actually be an embezzlement - theft by fraud). 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 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 and with the intent to permanently deprive the store of that property (keep it). Shoplifting is an "intent" crime, so if a person accidentally takes property from a store, it is not a theft. However, borrowing property from a store without permission to borrow it can be a theft and charged as shoplifting. Just for the record, taking shopping carts from a store is a crime.

Conspiracy to commit theft

A theft occurring by one or more persons when one or more persons are aware that the theft either will or is highly likely to occur constitutes two crimes: theft and conspiracy. Any act towards the commission of the theft can be charged as a conspiracy to commit a crime, which is a separate offense that does not merge with the object crime (theft).

Abandoned Attempted Theft

Whether a person is in the midst of an act that intends to commit a theft crime, or attempts an act that fails to achieve the theft of property, the crime of theft can still be charged. That is so because theft is an "intent" crime; it requires only that an intent existed to commit the crime, not that the crime was successfully committed. However, there are many defenses that can be raised to the issue of an attempted theft, as well as a completed theft, and each of them depend on the circumstances of the individual case. You should consult with your attorney about your case to determine how to move forward with your defense.

Wisconsin Theft Conviction Penalties

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, 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.

  • If the value of the stolen property exceeds $500, but is less than $10,000, then a Class H felony.
  • If the value of the stolen property exceeds $10,000, but is less than $100,000, then a Class G felony.
  • If the value of the stolen property exceeds $100,000, then a Class E felony.

Theft Convictions

Wisconsin law provides that each element of the crime of theft must be proven for a conviction. To be convicted on a theft charge, the prosecuting attorney must prove that it was the thief's intent to take the property. Property accidentally taken is not stolen.

It may seem as though it would be difficult for the prosecuting attorney to prove that the alleged thief actually had intent to steal, but juries in criminal trials and judges in bench trials render incorrect verdicts every day. And when they do, people are fined, sentenced to prison or jail, or both fined and jailed.

Not Guilty Verdict In Criminal Theft Trials

Attorney Chris Van Wagner & Attorney Tracey Wood represent people throughout Wisconsin who have been accused of property crimes including the crime of theft. Van Wagner & Wood's attorneys have won many outright acquittals (not guilty verdicts) for their clients, such as the acquittal won by Attorney Tracey Wood for her client who was federally charged with conversion (theft) and conspiracy in the largest military theft case known.

Contact Van Wagner & Wood

If you are under investigation for theft or another property crime, if you already have been charged with a crime, or if you were convicted of a crime and believe your conviction or sentence were wrong, please call ( in the Madison area, or statewide) the attorneys at Van Wagner & Wood for a brief but professional free first-impression analysis of your case. You can also send your case information online, or email the attorneys.

Attorney Chris Van Wagner or Attorney Tracey Wood will provide you with a free brief but professional "first-impression" analysis of your case, which will allow you to make the important decisions about building your defense.



Distinguishing Property Crimes

Wisconsin law distinguishes crimes against property from crimes against a person or the government. Theft is a crime against property. Robbery, which is theft by the use or threat of use of violence or force, is also a property crime, even though it necessarily involves a person. Theft includes simple larceny; larceny is the taking and carrying away of property of another without permission or the owner's knowledge and with intent to permanently deprive the owner of that property. Other property crimes under Wisconsin law include criminal damage to property (called vandalism), arson, molotov cocktails, burglary, possession of burglaries tools, criminal trespass, identity theft, forgery, criminal slander, shoplifting (which is a simple larceny called retail theft), computer crimes, infecting animals with contagious disease, stealing farm-raised fish, embezzlement, fraud, bribery, robbery, extortion, mail fraud, wire fraud, innkeeper fraud, restaurant fraud, gas station fraud, hotel fraud, and receipt of stolen property. [See also comparing theft crime].

theft lesser included crime to robbery

Theft is a lesser included offense to robbery. A robbery is a theft by the use or threat of force. [See Robbery].

See also:
Fraud | Larceny | Larceny by Trick
Embezzlement | False Pretenses | Misrepresentation