Milwaukee Auto Theft Defense Attorneys

Getting arrested for auto theft can be a frightening and stressful experience. If you’ve been accused of auto theft, you have the right to hire a skilled attorney to defend you. At Hart Powell, S.C., our Wisconsin theft and burglary attorneys have over 25 years of experience defending clients accused of auto theft. We have the experience, knowledge, and resources to fight for your freedom.

Wisconsin has harsh penalties in place for those who are convicted of auto theft. It’s a serious crime that can result in a prison sentence, expensive fines, or both. Many types of auto theft are felony offenses and could end up on your permanent record. When you get out of prison, the consequences of your actions could follow you for the rest of your life, creating problems when you’re looking for a job or want to attend college.

Hart Powell, S.C. is ready to meet with you for an initial consultation to discuss your legal options. Call (414) 271-9595 today to speak with one of our Milwaukee auto theft defense attorneys.

Operating A Vehicle Without the Owner’s Consent

Auto theft can include various actions. Hart Powell, S.C. is familiar with different types of auto theft and state laws associated with these cases. It’s vital that you seek immediate legal representation after getting arrested for any auto theft crime. Defending yourself against misdemeanor or felony charges could be a challenge if you’re unfamiliar with the legal process.

Wisconsin statute § 943.23 defines operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent as any of these actions:

  • Intentionally taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent while possessing a dangerous weapon and using or threatening to use force.
  • Using force or threatening to use force against a vehicle owner to take their vehicle without their permission intentionally.
  • Intentionally taking and driving a commercial vehicle without consent from the owner.
  • Intentionally driving or operating any type of vehicle without the owner’s consent.
  • Intentionally accompanying someone as a passenger in a vehicle knowing that person does not have the owner’s consent to drive or operate the vehicle.
  • Intentionally removing a major vehicle part without consent from the owner.

Other types of auto theft could lead to a criminal charge or conviction. They include:

  • Grand theft auto – Theft of a parked vehicle that the owner or a passenger isn’t occupying at the time of the offense.
  • Carjacking – Using a weapon or threatening force to possess someone else’s vehicle.
  • Joyriding – Using a person’s vehicle without their consent but without intending to possess the vehicle permanently.
  • Failure to return a rental car – Breaching the written contract to return the vehicle at the agreed-upon date and time.
  • Entering a locked vehicle – Intentionally entering a locked car or enclosed portion of the car without consent from the owner and with the intention of stealing it.
  • Theft of car parts – Removing a major part of the vehicle, such as a bumper, engine, transmission, hood, or any part with a value of more than $500.

If you were arrested or charged with any of the crimes above, Hart Powell, S.C. might be able to help. We believe Milwaukee residents and visitors deserve quality representation from an experienced auto theft defense attorney. Even a misdemeanor conviction comes with a mandatory jail sentence. This is not something you should try to resolve on your own.

Milwaukee Sentencing for Auto Theft Crimes

Wisconsin punishes individuals guilty of auto theft offenses based on the value of the vehicle. Sentencing guidelines for felonies and misdemeanors based on Wisconsin statute § 943.20 (3) are:

Class A misdemeanor – Value of $2,500 or less

  • Up to $10,000 in fines;
  • Maximum of nine months in jail;
  • Or both.

Class I felony – Value between $2,500 and $5,000

  • Up to $10,000 in fines;
  • Maximum of three and a half years in prison;
  • Or both.

Class H felony – Value between $5,000 and $10,000

  • Up to $10,000 in fines;
  • Maximum of six years in prison;
  • Or both.

Class G felony – Value between $10,000 and $100,000

  • Up to $25,000 in fines;
  • Maximum of ten years in prison;
  • Or both.

Class F felony – Value over $100,000

  • Up to $25,000 in fines;
  • Maximum of 12 and a half years in prison;
  • Or both.

Joyriding penalties depend on the facts associated with the crime. If it’s your first time facing these charges, it’s a Class H or Class I felony. If you’re a repeat offender with prior convictions, your prison sentence could increase.

Class A misdemeanor penalties are for anyone convicted of joyriding as a passenger.

Carjacking is a Class E felony. The penalty is up to $50,000 in fines and a maximum of fifteen years in prison. The punishment goes up to a Class C felony if you were armed with a dangerous weapon and used threats or force to steal the vehicle from the owner. Penalties for this conviction go up to $100,000 in fines and a maximum of 40 years in prison.

Entering a locked vehicle comes with Class A misdemeanor penalties. You could face a maximum of nine months in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.

Failure to return a rental car has penalties similar to the state sentencing guidelines and depends on the rental vehicle’s value.

Theft of car parts would be a Class I felony if you removed a major part. The punishment is a maximum of three and a half years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Missouri statute § 943.23(1) considers the following major parts:

  • Hood
  • Engine
  • Each rear quarter panel
  • Transmission
  • Front fender
  • Bumper
  • Grille
  • Tailgate, deck lid, or hatchback
  • Frame
  • Each door used for entrance and exit by occupants
  • Trunk floor pan

Theft of a non-major part is a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum of a nine-month jail sentence and up to a $10,000 fine.

When you hire Hart Powell, S.C., we will review all the details of your case to determine the best legal defense to use. Some cases could be resolved with a plea agreement, where the defendant pleads guilty to the offense for a reduced sentence or pleads guilty to a lesser charge. Sometimes, the best course of action is to take the case to trial if there’s substantial evidence that proves you didn’t commit the crime. The direction we choose will depend on various factors that we can discuss while investigating the case.

Legal Defenses Used In Auto Theft Cases

Our Milwaukee auto theft defense attorneys have experience reviewing possible defenses and determining which we could use in our client’s case. The prosecutor’s job is challenging. They must prove you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Our job is to plant the seeds of doubt in the juror’s minds. We can locate witnesses, gather evidence, and prepare arguments to discount every point the prosecutor makes at trial.

Some common legal defenses used in criminal cases include:

  • Unlawful search and seizure – The investigating or arresting officer searched for and seized evidence without first obtaining a warrant. This evidence isn’t admissible in court. We could file a motion to suppress so the prosecutor can’t present it during the trial.
  • Mistaken identity – Eyewitnesses can be useful in criminal cases. However, someone might have wrongly identified you as the offender. We can look for an alibi that proves you weren’t there at the time of the crime.
  • Abandoning the vehicle within 24 hours – If you abandoned the vehicle within 24 hours of stealing it and there isn’t any damage to it, the prosecutor might agree to lower the charge to a Class A misdemeanor. We must have sufficient evidence that proves this fact to use this affirmative defense.
  • Lack of intent– You didn’t intend to possess the vehicle you took from the owner permanently. If you were planning on returning it at some point, it could be considered joyriding, a misdemeanor crime.
  • Owner’s consent– The owner gave you permission to take or use their vehicle. However, it’s important to understand that giving consent one time does not necessarily mean you’re able to use their car whenever you want. If the offense in question resulted from the owner allowing you to drive their vehicle, we could use consent as a defense.

At Hart Powell, S.C., we’ve defended hundreds of clients and have been able to reach favorable results. You should receive fair treatment from your arrest to your sentencing. When it comes to your future, you shouldn’t leave it in the hands of an inexperienced attorney or overworked public defender. We will provide you with the personalized attention you need and deserve.

Contact Hart Powell, S.C.

Our Milwaukee auto theft defense attorneys will advocate for your rights, protect your reputation, and fight for your future and the future of your family. An arrest or criminal conviction not only affects the defendant but those who love them. It can upend your entire life and create emotional trauma and financial hardships. While we’re working on your case, you can lean on us for support and guidance. We will not abandon you during your time of need.

If you’re facing an auto theft conviction and want to learn more about the services we offer, call Hart Powell, S.C. at (414) 271-9595 for a consultation right now.

Written by Michael Hart & Craig Powell

Last Updated : May 2, 2023