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What Happens If I Borrow Something and Forget to Return It?

When Borrowing Becomes Stealing

If you borrow something, you have the intent to return it. But things come up all the time, whether they be appointments, last-minute dinner plans, homework, client or customer complaints, and more. These distractions can make it difficult to remember the other to-do’s you had in mind, such as returning the items you borrowed. As a result, the owner of the borrowed property may get suspicious about what you’ve done with their items(s.

Depending on your relationship with the owner, you could be looking at serious trouble for not returning the borrowed items. If you borrowed an item from your friend or family member, for instance, they probably won’t file charges against you. But if you borrowed something from your classmate or neighbor, there is a chance they will accuse you of theft. However, even the closest people in your life can catch you off-guard and accuse you of theft even if you had every intention of returning their stuff.

Wisconsin Theft Laws

Theft occurs when a person intentionally takes and carries away, uses, transfers, conceals, or retains possession of another’s property without their consent and with intent to deprive the owner permanently of possession of such property. If convicted of theft in Wisconsin, you could be looking at the following criminal penalties:

Class A misdemeanor: Value of the property is less than $2,500

Class I felony: Value of the property is more than $2,500 but less than $5,000

Class H felony: Value of the property is more than $5,000 but less than $10,000, or if any of the following circumstances exist:

  • The property is a domestic animal
  • The property is taken from a building that has been destroyed or left unoccupied because of a physical disaster, riot, bombing, or the proximity of battle
  • The property is taken after a physical disaster, riot, bombing or the proximity of battle has necessitated its removal from a building
  • The property is a firearm
  • The property is taken from a patient or resident of a facility or program or an individual at risk

Class G felony: Value of the property is more than $10,000 but less than $100,000, or the property is taken from the person of another or a corpse

Class F felony: Value of the property is more than $100,000

Elements Needed to Prove theft in Wisconsin

Although the penalties above sound frightening, know that you are innocent until proven guilty. Prosecutors can’t just snap their fingers and convict you of theft; they must satisfy some legal requirements and then some.

Prosecutors must prove that you took the item with the intent of never returning it. “Borrowing” is literally defined as taking and using something that belongs to someone else with the intention of returning it, therefore, if your attorney can prove that you intended to borrow the item and not steal it, then prosecutors will have trouble proving that you intended to keep the item and never give it back.

For example, if you texted your neighbor down the street asking to borrow their air fryer to make dinner, they may press charges if you don’t give it back within the following days and/or ignore their efforts to retrieve their air fryer. In court, however, your lawyer can present screenshots of your text message conversation to demonstrate that you intended to borrow the air fryer for dinner and not steal it.

Although intent can be difficult to prove, it’s not impossible. This is why you need a good lawyer to make it difficult for prosecutors to meet their burden of proof, which brings us to our next point.

The burden of proof is a standard that prosecutors must satisfy to legally establish a fact. In this case, prosecutors have the burden of proving that you intended to steal an item and never return it. If they can meet this burden of proof and convince a judge or jury to believe you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, you may get convicted of theft.

Defending Your Theft Charges

If you are facing theft crime accusations, it is in your best interests to get a lawyer immediately. Even if you never thought your neighbor or co-worker would accuse you of a crime, the reality is, you must defend yourself with relentless advocacy from our firm. Our attorney is a former prosecutor who has the knowledge and resource needed to help you get back on track.

Learn about your legal options and contact (414) 882-8382 now!