Most property crimes fall into one of three categories: crimes that damage someone’s property, crimes involving the theft of another person’s property, or crimes committed to defraud other people for financial gain.
Unlike many other types of crimes, property-crime conviction can have a much more serious impact on your future employment opportunities. That is because in Wisconsin it is legal for employers to discriminate against you based on prior convictions that are sufficiently related to your employment responsibilities, specifically certain crimes involving theft may disqualify you from a number of jobs that require you to handle money. We have summarized below different types of property crimes that our clients have commonly been charged with, and an explanation of potential defenses.
Criminal Damage To Property
One of the most common forms of criminal damage charges is Criminal Damage To Property. Other examples are vandalism.
Criminal Damage To Property is typically a Class A Misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 9 months jail and/or a $10,000.00 fine if convicted. In certain circumstances, it may become a Class I Felony, meaning it carries a maximum sentence of up to 3.5 years and a $10,000.00 fine, if convicted. Finally, in select circumstances, it is a Class H felony, punishable up to 6 years I prison and a $10,000.00 fine if convicted, to cause property damage resulting in substantial interruption or impairment to a service or good provided by an energy provider. Examples of Class I Felony Criminal Damage To Property include, but are not limited to: causing more than $2,500.00 in property damage, other than currency/debit card operated machines; damage in the amount between more than $500.00 to $2,500.00 of a currency/debit card operated machine with the purpose of committing theft; intentional damage to a vehicle or highway that is a type of damage likely to cause injury to a person; damage to the property of a juror that was caused by reason of the juror’s participation in an indictment or verdict; and damage to the property of a public utility or common carrier. To prove you guilty of Criminal Damage To Property, the State must prove five elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) that you caused damage to physical property; (2) that you intentionally did so; (3) that the property belonged to another person; (4) that you damaged the property without the owner’s consent; and (5) that you knew that the owner did not consent to the property damage.
One of the most common defenses to Criminal Damage To Property claims is that you were not the person who caused the damage to the property. In domestic cases, for example, the other party may have damaged the property during a struggle and blamed the other person. Additionally, another potential defense is that the property damage was not intentional, but rather accidental. Particularly where there is alcohol impairment and physical movement during a domestic argument, a person may perceive that a household object was intentionally broken, when that is not the case. Finally, because Wisconsin requires mandatory arrest of at least one person when police are called to respond to a domestic altercation and there is a risk of physical harm to one or more parties, it is common for an accuser to exaggerate or outright lie to prevent himself or herself from becoming arrested. Our firm carefully and thoroughly investigates the facts of these types of cases, and has a track record of success defending our clients in these types of cases. Each defense depends on the specific facts of your case. Contact an attorney at our office to schedule a consultation to discuss potential defenses.
In Wisconsin, Arson is a Class C Felony with a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and/or a $10,000.00 fine if convicted. To prove Arson, the State must generally prove two elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) that you damaged certain types of property, generally a building, by means of a fire (including smoke damage or charring); (2) and (2) that you did so intentionally. There are potential defenses to Arson, including: (1) you were not the person who caused the fire; or (2) that the fire was caused by another cause. Our firm works with leading experts, including fire investigators and electrical engineers, to evaluate these types of cases and provide our clients with the best possible defenses. Please contact our firm to schedule a consultation with one of our attorney to discuss your case.
Theft is a broad category covering any attempt to take and keep property that doesn’t belong to you. Theft also includes misusing property that was entrusted to you, or failure to pay for a service.
If the value of the theft was less than or equal to $2,500.00 it is treated as a Class A Misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of up to 9 months confinement and/or a $10,000.00 fine. If the value is greater than $2,500.00 the theft is treated as a Felony. For example, if the amount is between more than $2,500.00 to $5,000.00, it is a Class I Felony with a maximum penalty of 3.5 years prison and/or a $10,000.00 fine, if convicted. If the amount is between more than $5,000.00 and $10,000.00, it is a Class H Felony with a maximum penalty of 6 years prison and/or a $10,000.00 fine, if convicted. I the amount is between more than $10,000.00 to $100,000.00 it is a Class G Felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years prison and/or a $25,000.00 fine, if convicted. If the amount exceeds $100.000.00, it is a Class F Felony with a maximum penalty of 12.5 years prison and/or a $25,000.00 fine, if convicted. Yet taking certain types of property, regardless of value is a Class H Felony: a domestic animal; property from a building abandoned due to special circumstances, including a riot, disaster, or bombing; a firearm; and property from certain types of at-risk patients. By contrast, it is a Class G felony to steal property from a corpse.
There are a number of potential defenses depending on the type of theft, and the specific facts of the case. For example, in some circumstances, an individual may be falsely accused of theft due to another person improperly blaming that person. This is more common when the person who accuses the other person stands to gain financially, particularly when the amount alleged is a significant amount of money. Another example is that the accuser may have memory issues and believe a financial transfer or transaction was done by theft, not recalling that they approved the transfer or transaction. Defenses depend on the specific facts of each case. Our firm consults with accountants and thoroughly investigates these types of cases to provide our clients with the best possible defense. Please contact an attorney at our office to schedule a consultation to discuss potential defenses.
Burglary & Robbery
Those two terms often are used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Burglary is the crime of entering an unoccupied building with the intent to commit a theft. Robbery is the act of entering an occupied building with the intent to commit a theft. Robbery is a far more serious charge, especially if you were armed at the time of the robbery, or if the victim(s) had reason to believe you were armed. Robbery is considered more serious mainly because the probability of violence is higher.
Burglary is either a Class F Felony punishable with a maximum penalty of up to 12.5 years prison and/or a $25,000.00 fine, or a Class E Felony, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years prison and/or a $50,000.00 fine. For example, it is a Class F Felony to burglarize the following: a building, dwelling, railroad car, enclosed portion of a ship, etc. By contrast, it is a Class E Felony to burglarize under the following conditions: being armed with a dangerous weapon; opening a depository or safe by use of an explosive; committing a battery to a third party during the course of the burglary, etc. To prove you committed a burglary, the State must generally prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt that you: (1) intentionally entered a building; (2) did so without the lawful owner’s consent; (3) you knew the entry was without consent; and (4) you entered the building with intent to steal.
Robbery is a Class E Felony with a maximum sentence of up to 15 years prison and/or a $50,000.00 fine, if convicted. Robbery involves stealing property from another without the owner’s consent by force, or by threat of imminent use of force. If the robber uses a dangerous weapon during the robbery, it becomes a Class C Felony with a maximum punishment of up to 40 years confinement and/or a $100,000.00 fine if convicted. To convict you of robbery, the State would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) another person owned the property you took; (2) you took and carried away the property, depriving the owner of their right of ownership; (3) you took the property with intent to steal; and (4) you took the property forcibly.
There are a number of potential defenses to Burglary and Robbery. The most common example is challenging the eyewitness identification. False eyewitness identifications are common, particularly when the reported victim does not know the burglar/robber. Our firm works with leading experts in eyewitness identification and skilled private investigators to ensure that our clients receive the best possible defense. Please contact an attorney at our office to schedule a consultation to discuss potential defenses.