Milwaukee Shoplifting Defense Attorneys

Were you arrested or charged with shoplifting in Milwaukee? Are you in need of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to defend you in your case? If so, contact our Wisconsin theft and burglary attorneys at Hart Powell, S.C. so we can review the details of the alleged crime and determine how best to represent you.

Shoplifting, also called retail theft, involves the act of stealing property from a store but could also include other actions involving merchandise that doesn’t belong to you. Penalties range from a simple citation to a prison sentence. Defending yourself against these charges can be challenging. You should hire one of the Milwaukee shoplifting defense attorneys from Hart Powell, S.C. Without legal representation, you could face roadblocks and obstacles that you don’t know how to overcome.

With over 25 years of experience, Hart Powell, S.C. knows how to prepare the right defense strategy that gets results. Call us at (414) 271-9595 for an initial consultation to find out more about our legal services and how we can protect your rights, freedom, and future.

Types of Shoplifting Offenses

According to Wisconsin statute § 943.50, shoplifting occurs when a person commits any of the acts below without the merchant’s consent with the intent to deprive them of possession of that item permanently:

  • Intentionally retain merchandise or property that the merchant intends to use for resale.
  • Intentionally take and carry away property or merchandise that the merchant wants to use for resale.
  • Intentionally transfer merchandise or property that the merchant is holding for resale.
  • Intentionally alter the value or price of merchandise the merchant is reselling.
  • Intentionally conceal merchandise that the merchant intends to resell.
  • Intentionally remove a theft detection device while in the merchant’s store.
  • Possess with the intent to use or use a theft detection device remover to remove the device from the merchandise.
  • Use or possess with the intent to use a theft detection shielding device to prevent merchandise from being detected by a theft alarm sensor.

The prosecutor’s job is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you’re guilty of a shoplifting offense. They must provide evidence of your actions and that you intended to take or possess merchandise without the owner’s consent. Our job is to dispute the allegations made against you and build a strong, persuasive argument on your behalf that helps you get your charges dismissed or reduced.

Penalties You Could Face If Convicted of Shoplifting

The punishment for retail theft depends on the value of the item in question. There are varying degrees of shoplifting, and the judge will consider different factors when determining if you should face a misdemeanor or felony conviction.

Two categories of theft are:

  • Petty theft – Stolen property with a value less than $500.
  • Grand theft – Stolen property with a value of more than $500.

Class A misdemeanor – Value is no more than $500

  • Maximum of a $10,000 fine
  • No more than nine months in prison

If two or more individuals conspire to shoplift, the Class A misdemeanor charge increases to a Class H felony.

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

  • Maximum of a $10,000 fine
  • No more than three and a half years in prison

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

  • Maximum of a $10,000 fine
  • No more than six years in prison

Class G felony – Value over $10,000

  • Maximum of a $25,000 fine
  • No more than ten years in prison

If the value of the shoplifted item was under $100 or the police have reason to treat the offense as a minor infraction, you may not face any harsh penalties. You would likely receive a citation and have to pay a small fine.

Besides sentencing in criminal court, you could also face civil penalties. This means the merchant could file a lawsuit for:

  • Cost of pursuing a lawsuit, such as attorney’s fees;
  • Retail value of the stolen merchandise (unless you were able to return it without damage) and associated financial losses; and
  • Punitive damages not to exceed three times the total retail value of the shoplifted items.

Habitual offenders

If this isn’t the first time you’re facing a criminal conviction, you could face increased sentencing depending on the minimum mandatory sentencing issued for the specific crime you committed. This is also dependent on the timeframe between your last conviction and when you were arrested for shoplifting.

These penalties include:

  • One-year prison sentence – No more than a two-year increase
  • Between one and ten-year prison sentence for a misdemeanor offense – No more than a two-year increase
  • Between one and ten-year prison sentence for a felony offense – No more than a four-year increase
  • Maximum ten-year prison sentence – No more than a two-year increase for a prior misdemeanor conviction or no more than a six-year increase for a prior felony conviction

Someone is considered a habitual offender if they were arrested within five years from their last felony conviction or have three separate misdemeanor convictions within that same five-year period.

What To Do If You’re Arrested or Charged with Shoplifting In Milwaukee

If you get caught shoplifting and law enforcement arrests you, there are some things you should and shouldn’t do during the arrest and booking process. Saying or doing the wrong thing could result in harsher penalties. It’s crucial that you understand your rights and do what you can to protect yourself.

  • Step 1 – Never flee the scene. Typically, a security guard is the one to detain you until police arrive. You shouldn’t leave the scene before law enforcement gets there. The prosecutor could use that as proof that you’re guilty. Innocent people tend not to run away. However, staying at the store could work to your advantage if the security official detains you illegally. You could then challenge the arrest in court.
  • Step 2 – Stay calm. We know you might be scared or worried about what will happen if the police officer arrests you. However, you should remain respectful and don’t do anything that could escalate the situation or lead to additional criminal charges.
  • Step 3 – Maintain your right to remain silent. You do not have to answer the officer’s questions or go into detail about the alleged crime. You might think you won’t hurt your case by trying to explain what happened, but you could end up incriminating yourself. If you get arrested, tell the officer you want to speak with your lawyer. If they continue to question you or ignore your request for legal representation, that’s a violation of your rights and it could help your case.
  • Step 4 – Contact Hart Powell, S.C. to speak with one of our Milwaukee shoplifting defense attorneys. Retail theft could lead to a severe penalty if the items you allegedly stole were high in value. You should not leave your future in your own hands or the hands of an overworked public defender. We can meet with you for an initial consultation and determine if we can represent you.
  • Step 5 – Recall all details associated with your arrest. Try to remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when law enforcement showed up at the store to arrest you. You should also inform your lawyer if someone violated your rights. Facts are important and could get your case dismissed.
  • Step 6 – Prepare yourself for court appearances. After your arrest, you will need to make an initial appearance in front of a judge to hear the charges against you and how much your bail will be. These kinds of legal proceedings can be overwhelming. It’s critical to remember that the judge holds the fate of your future in their hands. Treat them with respect and don’t argue with them.
  • Step 7 – If you post bail and get released until your trial begins, stay out of trouble. Committing another crime while you’re awaiting trial could negatively impact your case’s outcome and result in additional charges.

Speak to An Experienced Milwaukee Shoplifting Defense Attorney Today

A criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor offense, could impact the rest of your life. You could have difficulties that include having your family torn apart, trouble looking for a job, and other challenges. Facing a shoplifting conviction is an experience you shouldn’t go through without a dedicated and compassionate attorney by your side. When you hire Hart Powell, S.C., we will fight to protect your rights and secure your freedom. We won’t allow anyone to mistreat you during the legal process or violate your rights.

You deserve a chance at a fair trial. We’ve successfully represented clients since 1993. We’ve been able to negotiate fair plea agreements, argue for a reduced charge, and get cases dismissed. We will dedicate our time, attention, and resources to an effective defense strategy. Call Hart Powell, S.C. at (414) 271-9595 if you’re facing shoplifting charges. We care about our clients. Call us today.

Written by Michael Hart & Craig Powell

Last Updated : May 2, 2023