You can be charged with – and convicted of – criminal damage to property if you intentionally damage another person’s property without his or her permission. This property crime is a Class A misdemeanor, which means a judge could sentence you to jail for up to 9 months and order you to pay up to $10,000 in fines. Sometimes, criminal damage to property is more serious than a misdemeanor, though; it can be a Class I felony, which could send you to prison for up to 18 months (with an additional 2 years of extended supervision) and require you to pay fines of up to $10,000.
Related: Wisconsin criminal penalties
Criminal Damage to Property: When is it a Misdemeanor?
Damaging property as a Class A misdemeanor is typically the most common. Under Wisconsin law, it’s simply damaging “any physical property of another without the person’s consent.” It takes special circumstances to make property damage a felony.
Criminal Damage to Property: When is it a Felony?
Property damage is a Class I felony when the property:
- Is a vehicle or highway, and the damage is likely to cause injury or further property damage
- Belongs to a public utility or common carrier, and the damage is likely to impair services
- Is on state-owned land and is listed on the registry of prominent features
- Belongs to someone who is or was a grand or petit juror, and the reason you damaged the property was a verdict or indictment that the person assented to
- Is a rock art site listed on the National Register of Historic Places
- Is some kind of plant material used in research
- Is a machine operated by coins, bills, or debit or credit cards (a vending machine)
It can also be a Class H felony (punishable by up to 3 years in prison with 3 years of extended supervision, as well as a fine of up to $10,000) when the property belongs to an energy provider if you intended to cause substantial interruption of services or goods.
What About Damage to Your Own Property?
The courts can convict you of damaging your own property in some cases – like when you’re going through a divorce and you damage or destroy something that belongs to your spouse. Because Wisconsin’s laws recognize a married couple’s belongings as jointly owned, you could be charged with and convicted of a crime if you damage things that really belong to you.
Do You Need Legal Advice on Criminal Damage to Property?
If you’re accused of criminal damage to property – regardless of whose property it is – we may be able to help you. Call us right now at 414-383-6700 to find out how.