What Misdemeanor Theft Means in Wisconsin and What to Expect
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Misdemeanor theft is defined by Wisconsin State Statute §943.20 as:
“Whoever intentionally takes and carries away, uses, transfers, conceals, or retains possession of movable property of another without the other's consent and with intent to deprive the owner permanently of possession of such property.”
Theft is classified as a misdemeanor when the property stolen is worth an amount less than $2,500.
To find a defendant guilty of violating this statute, the district attorney would have to prove four elements:
- The defendant intentionally took and carried away movable property of another
- The owner of the property did not consent to taking and carrying away the property
- The defendant knew that the owner did not consent
- The defendant intended to deprive the owner permanently of the possession of the property
When reviewing these elements, it is important to understand the legal definitions of several of key terms. “Intentionally” means that the defendant must have had the mental purpose to take and carry away property. “Movable property” means property whose physical location can be changed. “Property of another” means property in which a person other than the actor has a legal interest.
Any time you delve into a realm with which you are unfamiliar or unpracticed, it is important to hire an expert. Just as you would not attempt to remove your own appendix, it is unwise to forgo hiring an attorney for legal proceedings. This is especially true when you are facing jail time as a possible outcome.
Initial Appearance, Further Proceedings, and Your 2 Choices
The stages you can expect throughout the pendency of the case include your initial appearance, where your bail is decided, and a scheduling/status/further proceedings conference. The purpose of this conference is to let the court know how you plan to proceed with the case, whether it be taking it to trial or settling with a plea agreement. At this point what you can expect will diverge.
Option 1: Go to Jury Trial
If you decide to take your case to trial, you will first have a jury status date to:
- File a witness list
- File motion in limine
- Give parameters or rules for the attorneys to follow during trial
- Give jury instructions if needed
Your jury status date will be followed quickly by your jury trial date. Depending on the court’s schedule, it is possible your case will not take place on that date. Typically this is because other trials are set for the same day and time, and for a number of reasons another case may take precedence over yours. Your attorney will advise you regarding your decision to go to trial, but ultimately it is up to you.
2. Settle with a Plea Agreement
If you choose not to take your case to trial you will likely proceed by accepting an offer given by the district attorney. In a case involving misdemeanor theft, restitution is likely going to play some sort of role in the offer.
Once you enter a plea your case will proceed to the sentencing stage of the case. During sentencing the district attorney and your attorney will present arguments to the Judge in regards to how you should be sentenced following a conviction.
Misdemeanor Theft Penalties/Punishment
If you are charged with Class A misdemeanor theft, you are facing a maximum 9 month jail sentence and/or a $10,000 fine. You could also have to pay restitution for what was taken.
The outcome of your particular case is dependent on many factors, such as:
- The evidence the district attorney has against you
- Whether a motion can be filed challenging the evidence or how it was obtained
- Your criminal record
- The value of the item
- The Judge to which your case is assigned
It is your attorney’s job to balance all of these factors in order to secure the best possible outcome.
If you have been charged with Misdemeanor Theft, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney with a proven track record of success in handling criminal defense cases. There are important nuances in Misdemeanor Theft cases that can make or break your case, and you need a skilled advocate to navigate them properly. Schedule a free case assessment with Grieve Law to find out your best option.