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The Wisconsin statutes define theft as the intentional act of taking another person or business’ property without that person or business’ consent. In the case of retail theft (or shoplifting) this generally means walking out of a store with an item that you did not pay for. But how much trouble can you actually get in for shoplifting?

The quick answer? A lot of trouble.

Penalties for Shoplifting

Criminal penalties for retail theft vary based on the value of the item(s) stolen. So stealing a video game from Target is going to carry less of a penalty than stealing a truckload of HDTVs. Depending on the value of the merchandise, a person convicted of shoplifting can face 9 months to 10 years jail time, and $5,000 to $25000 in fines. Here is a quick breakdown of the charges and penalties for shoplifting in Wisconsin:

  • Value of merchandise is less than or equal to $2500.
    • Maximum penalty of 9 months jail time, and $5000 in fines.
  • Value of merchandise is between $2500 and $5000.
    • Maximum penalty of three and a half years jail time and $10000 in fines.
  • Value of merchandise is between $5000 and $10000.
    • Maximum penalty of six years in jail and $10000 in fines.
  • Value of merchandise is more than $10000
    • Maximum penalty of ten years jail time and $25000 in fines.

These consequences can increase if coupled with other offenses present at the time of the theft of if the offender has other criminal offenses on their record.

What if you Shoplifted without Realizing?

Sometimes people shoplift without even realizing it. They put something in their pocket or purse with the intention of paying for it and then completely forget. If this ever happens to you the best course of action is to go back to the store, explain the situation and pay for the item. Most stores will understand.

If they do not understand and wish to press charges, then your best option is to talk with a competent criminal defense lawyer.