Untitled---2023-10-24T092522.969.jpgShoplifting or retail theft is often seen as a minor offense that may be committed by teenagers or others who steal low-value items from stores. However, this form of theft is still considered a serious crime that can have significant legal consequences. In the state of Wisconsin, shoplifting offenses are typically charged as misdemeanors. However, under certain circumstances, shoplifting can lead to felony charges. A person who has been accused of retail theft will need to understand their rights and their options for defense. Representation from an experienced attorney can be crucial in these situations.

What Constitutes Retail Theft in Wisconsin?

Retail theft occurs when a person intentionally takes possession of or carries away merchandise from a store without paying its full price. While the most commonly recognized form of shoplifting involves pocketing merchandise and leaving a store without paying, there are other activities that could result in retail theft charges. Some examples include:

  • Switching price tags on items to purchase a more expensive item at the price of a cheaper item. 

  • Intentionally ringing up items on self-checkout machines for prices lower than their actual retail value.

  • Concealing a smaller item within a larger item to steal it after purchasing the larger item.

  • Removing theft-detection tags or devices from items to take them from a store.

  • Failing to return items that have been rented or leased on a short-term basis.

  • Any other actions that deprive a retailer of the possession of merchandise or the full purchase price of items sold in a store.

Misdemeanor Shoplifting Charges

In most cases where the value of stolen merchandise is less than $500, people accused of shoplifting will face Class A misdemeanor charges in Wisconsin. The penalties for a Class A misdemeanor conviction can include a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to nine months. If convicted of misdemeanor retail theft in Wisconsin, a person may also face additional consequences, such as probation or community service, and they may be required to make restitution payments to the store owner for the losses they have experienced or any other damages that occurred during the incident.

Felony Shoplifting Charges

In cases where a person is accused of stealing more than $500 worth of merchandise, retail theft may be charged as a felony. Felony offenses typically carry sentences of more than one year in prison, as well as significant fines. The specific felony charges that may apply in retail theft cases will be based on the value of the merchandise that was allegedly stolen:

  • Theft of merchandise worth $500 to $5,000 – This is a Class I felony, with a maximum sentence of three years and six months in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

  • Theft of merchandise worth $5,000 to $10,000 – This is a Class H felony, with a maximum prison sentence of six years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

  • Theft of merchandise worth more than $10,000 – This is a Class G felony, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.

In certain circumstances, the alleged theft of merchandise worth less than $500 may also lead to felony charges. If a person allegedly worked together with one or more other people to commit a shoplifting offense, and they intended to sell the stolen merchandise online, they may face Class I felony charges.

Contact Our Milwaukee Retail Theft Defense Lawyers

If you or someone you know is facing shoplifting charges in Wisconsin, the experienced lawyers at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP can provide legal help and representation. Our team understands the complexities of Wisconsin’s criminal laws, and we will work tirelessly to protect your rights and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your situation. Contact our Milwaukee, WI, shoplifting defense attorneys at 414-271-1440 to discuss your case with us and learn how we can help you resolve these charges successfully.