Shoplifting and retail theft more broadly, can be an embarrassing ordeal for anyone involved.
While most of us think of shoplifting as simply walking out of a store with something you didn’t pay for, retail theft is actually a much broader, more complicated offense encompassing many other situations you may not realize.
Tampering with price tags or simply appearing to conceal an item while you’re still inside the store can constitute retail theft in Wisconsin.
To fully understand retail theft and what to do if you’re facing charges here in Wisconsin, let’s take a closer look at the law and 3 important steps to take if you find yourself charged with retail theft.
What is retail theft in Wisconsin and how is it classified as a criminal offense?
Like I said before, retail theft is not limited to taking something from a store without paying for it.
In Wisconsin, a person may be charged for the following actions if they didn’t have the store’s consent, and intended to deprive the merchant permanently of the full purchase price of the merchandise or property:
- Intentionally altering a price tag
- Intentionally taking and carrying away merchandise
- Intentionally transferring merchandise
- Intentionally concealing merchandise
- Intentionally retaining possession of merchandise
- Removing a theft detection device while inside a store
- Using or possessing (with the intent to use) a theft detection shielding device
- Using or possessing (with the intent to use) a theft detection device remover
Retail theft charges can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the property involved.
Criminal retail theft charges in Wisconsin
If the value of the property taken is $2,500 or less, the crime of retail theft in Wisconsin is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 9 months jail and a fine of $10,000.
If the value of the property taken is over $2,500 retail theft is a felony. The various felony offenses for retail theft in Wisconsin break down as follows:
Class I felony
The merchandise exceeds $2,500 but does not exceed $5,000. A Class I felony is punishable by prison of up to 3 years 6 months and a fine of up to $10,000.
Class H felony
If the value of the merchandise exceeds $5,000 but does not exceed $10,000. A Class H felony is punishable by prison of up to 6 years and fine of up to $10,000.
Class G felony
If the value of the merchandise exceeds $10,000. A Class G felony is punishable by prison of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $25,000.
What to do if you’re charged with retail theft in Wisconsin:
1. Do not flee the scene.
Many times, the initial arrest for shoplifting/retail theft is made by private security officers, not police. There are two huge reasons not to flee from a store if you’re confronted by staff or security:
- Fleeing typically presents strong evidence of guilt, damaging your defense.
- If you’re illegally detained you can challenge it in court
2. Do not make self-incriminating statements to police.
No matter how friendly or understanding a police officer may seem to be, do not appeal to them for leniency by saying you made a mistake.
While you might think this is an innocent explanation, the police see it as an admission of guilt. If you’re questioned, invoke your right to an attorney and questioning should stop.
3. Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Depending on the value of the property involved, it’s clear retail theft can be a serious criminal offense with severe penalties. As such, it’s crucial to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney that can fully assess your case and identify the best possible strategy moving forward.