In Wisconsin, it’s illegal for a person to have physical control over a car without first having received the owner’s consent to drive it. Under statute 943.23(4m), it is also a crime to be a passenger in a vehicle that is known to be stolen, regardless of whether or not they participated in its taking.
For example, say Mario knows where his neighbor keeps their car keys. He takes them and drives off with their sedan. He pulls up to his friend Anthony’s house and tells him to get in. Anthony, knowing that Mario doesn’t have this type of car, asks where he got it. Mario retells the story of his neighbor’s keys. The two drive around town. When Mario runs a red light, he is pulled over by a cop who determines that the young man is operating a stolen vehicle.
Penalties for Being a Passenger in a Stolen Vehicle
In the above scenario, not only could Mario be charged with a Class H felony, which is punishable by up to 6 years in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines, but Anthony could also be facing criminal charges, even though all he did was hop in the car. Although Anthony faces a Class A misdemeanor as opposed to a felony, he is still facing severe penalties. This level of offense is penalized by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a jail term of up to 9 months.
Driving a Vehicle Known to Be Stolen
Taking the earlier example a little further, say Mario offers to let Anthony drive the car. Excited to get behind the wheel, Anthony agrees and takes a trip down the street. Under statute 943.23(3), he could be charged with intentionally operating a stolen vehicle, even though he isn’t the one who took it. This offense is a Class I felony, which could result in a prison sentence of up to 3 years and 6 months, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.
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