Shoplifting Charges in Wisconsin

Learn about the laws, penalties and civil consequences of a shoplifting charge in Wisconsin. Find out if you can avoid a conviction and criminal record.

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Shoplifting in Wisconsin is a crime with serious penalties, including potential fines and jail time. In addition to facing criminal penalties, shoplifters can be sued by merchants in civil court to recover damages.

Shoplifting in Wisconsin

Shoplifting is referred to as retail theft in Wisconsin. Retail theft is committed when a person, with the intention of depriving a merchant of possession of merchandise or the purchase price, takes, conceals, retains, or transfers merchandise; alters price tags; removes theft detection devices; or uses or possesses a tool to remove or thwart theft detection devices.

Merchants who have reasonable cause to suspect that a person is shoplifting can detain the suspect, in a reasonable manner, and for a reasonable amount of time, in order to contact the police or the parents or guardians of a suspect who is a minor. Criminal and civil penalties for shoplifting are described below.

Criminal Penalties for Wisconsin Shoplifting

Charge

Classification

Penalty

Retail theft of merchandise with a combined retail value of up to $2,500

Class A misdemeanor

Up to nine months of jail time and/or a fine up to $5,000

Retail theft of merchandise with a combined retail value of more than $2,500, up to $5,000

Class I felony

Up to three-and-a-half years of jail time and/or a fine up to $10,000

Retail theft of merchandise with a combined retail value of more than $5,000, up to $10,000

Class H felony

Up to six years of jail time and/or a fine up to $10,000

Retail theft of merchandise with a combined retail value of more than $10,000

Glass G felony

Up to 10 years of jail time and/or a fine up to $25,000

In addition to jail time and fines, a judge may order the defendant to pay restitution to the merchant.

Civil Liability

A merchant who has been the victim of shoplifting can sue the shoplifter (or the parent or legal guardian of a minor who commits shoplifting) in civil court for:

  • the retail value of the merchandise, unless it is returned undamaged
  • any other actual damages caused by the shoplifter
  • an award of exemplary damages equal to three times the retail value of the merchandise (two times the amount if liability is against the parent or legal guardian of a minor shoplifter), and
  • costs of the action, including reasonable attorney fees

Note: The total amount awarded for exemplary damages and reasonable attorney fees cannot exceed $500 for each shoplifting violation ($300 if the shoplifter is a minor)

Deferred Prosecution and Plea Bargains

Some counties in Wisconsin offer deferred prosecution and diversion programs, typically those accused of first-time and low-level crimes. If an accused completes the program requirements, which could include activities such as restitution, community service, and counseling, the criminal charges will be dropped.

If a deferred prosecution program is not available, the accused may be able to arrange a plea bargain with the prosecutor assigned to the case. Plea bargains often involve pleading guilty in exchange for reduced charges or reduced sentencing, and are available at the discretion of the prosecutor.

Learn more about diversion and pretrial options.

Getting Legal Help

If you have been accused of shoplifting in Wisconsin, you face serious criminal penalties, such as jail time and fines. Contact an experienced Wisconsin criminal attorney to explore all of your options, such as pursuing deferred prosecution programs, raising defenses, and negotiating plea bargains, in order to minimize the consequences of a shoplifting charge.

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