In the state of Wisconsin, most property that you and your spouse own belongs to both of you. The law essentially embodies the old cliché, “What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine.”
So what happens if you break, damage, or destroy something that belongs to both of you?
You need to know that under Wisconsin law, you can get into trouble for doing so—and you may need to talk to an attorney who handles criminal damage to property cases in Milwaukee and Waukesha, because the consequences can be severe.
Destroying Property You Own Under Wisconsin Law
When someone else can claim ownership of property that you own, you could be convicted of damage to property.
Here’s a scenario:
Angie finds out that David has been cheating on her, so she hunts around the house for spray paint to mark up his car. She doesn’t find any, but she does find something sharp and carves “Cheater” in all capital letters on his driver’s side door (complete with an arrow pointing up, toward the window) and on his hood. She also carves the same word on his motorcycle’s gas tank and cuts open his leather seat.
In the state of Wisconsin, although Angie’s name is on the title to the car and the motorcycle, she can’t claim exclusive ownership of either of those items because she’s not the only owner. Her husband owns the vehicles, too. As a result, Angie could be found guilty of criminal damage to property. (Not all states have laws like Wisconsin’s, though; in some states, it’s perfectly legal to carve anything you’d like into any of your spouse’s belongings as long as they’re yours, too.)
What Happens if You Destroy Your Own Property in Wisconsin?
In a scenario like this one, you could be charged with criminal damage to property. You can be found guilty if the prosecution can show that you:
- Intentionally damaged physical property
- Did not have exclusive ownership of the property
- Caused the damage without the other owner’s consent
- Knew that you didn’t have the other owner’s consent and that there was, in fact, another owner besides yourself
If you’re found guilty, you could be facing a Class a misdemeanor, which carries a possible penalty of up to 9 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. However, some types of property turn the crime into a Class I felony.