If you've been charged with embezzlement in Madison or elsewhere across the state, or expect to receive such accusations soon, then you may be wondering what a typical penalty for embezzlement is under Wisconsin law.
To help you prepare for your defense, keep reading to learn the definition of embezzlement under Wisconsin state law and the process for determining possible punishments you may face if convicted.
What Is Embezzlement?
Defining embezzlement can be difficult because of the way it straddles the major crime categories of fraud and theft.
Embezzlement is the act of using a position of trust to wrongfully take possession of another's property. Wisconsin does not explicitly name embezzlement as a crime in the statutes, but the crime is covered under theft as a unique variety of larceny.
A typical theft involves trespassing into a restricted area and taking valuables from another. Someone who embezzles, on the other hand, uses their legitimate access to achieve the same goal without an invasion. While embezzlement is most commonly thought of as a theft of funds, any item of value taken by virtue of a position of trust or authority will qualify as embezzlement.
Embezzlement is distinct from fraud despite its similarity to fraud due to the use of a position of trust to do harm. If the prosecution can demonstrate that there was an intent to gain the position of trust in order to commit the embezzlement, then the accused may also face fraud charges. However, the embezzlement itself is not considered an act of fraud.
Attempts to mask an embezzlement can lead to further charges, especially when legally binding reports with the accused's signature on them are altered or filled with incorrect information.
Is Embezzlement a Felony?
Back to our original question: Does embezzlement in Wisconsin qualify as a felony? It depends on the value of the stolen property and the nature of the business or person who was victimized.
If the total embezzlement is less than $2,500, then the charge is only a Class A misdemeanor. While the Class A misdemeanor can still carry a hefty fine of $10,000 and up to 9 months in jail, it has considerably less impact on your future since it isn't a felony.
Once the value hits the $2,500 threshold, the accused will be facing felony charges that continue to escalate as the value increases.
- From $2,500 to $5,000 - Class I felony charges with penalties of up to $10,000 and 3 years to 6 months of jail time.
- From $5,000 to $10,000 - Class H felony charges with penalties of up to $10,000 and 6 years of prison time.
- $10,000 and above - Class G felony charges, the highest tier for embezzlement charges, which authorizes fines of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years.
If the victim of the embezzlement is in a health care facility, then the penalty automatically begins as a Class H felony. Similarly, if the theft is from a person or the remains of a person, then it is automatically a Class H felony. In both cases, values of over $10,000 will elevate the charges to a Class G Felony.
Gathering the Right Assistance for Your Embezzlement Case
If you've been falsely accused of embezzlement or wish to ensure that you only receive the minimum amount of punishment, then you need far more than just a brief overview of the crime and its penalties.
Before you head into the courtroom, contact the law offices of Wisconsin Criminal Defense Attorney Patrick J. Stangl to put an experienced attorney in your corner. With the help of Attorney Stangl and his team, both in the field and in front of the bench, you will have the best chance of achieving the optimal outcome for your case.