The law against placing foreign objects in edibles was first titled “placing foreign objects in candy” when legislators created the law in 1971. Hysteria surrounding razorblades, drugs, and other items placed in candy has been a constant in our society for decades. Although the original title focused on candy, this law has always been used to punish individuals placing foreign substances in all human edibles.
Placing foreign objects in edibles is a Class I felony, meaning it’s punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison, $10,000.00 in fines, or both. The circumstances leading to the criminal charge will likely serve as a large factor in determining how serious the government considers the crime. Although it has never been criminally charged in Wisconsin, razorblades placed in candy during Halloween will likely result in a very serious prosecution and a large amount of media attention. More commonly, we hear about fast food workers or other members of the service industry fiddling with a police officer’s food or coffee. Obviously this is another situation that could attract the government seeking tough penalties.
Hiring a top Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer is certainly important when facing any felony-level criminal charge. Facing something like this on your own is certainly legal, but may not lead to the best possible results. We represent clients facing difficult situations every day. Our criminal defense attorneys are regularly recognized as some of Wisconsin’s best.
Contact us at (414) 270-0202 to speak with our firm about how we can help.
Section 941.325 of the Wisconsin Statutes discusses this offense:
941.325. Placing foreign objects in edibles. Whoever places objects, drugs or other substances in candy or other liquid or solid edibles with the intent to cause bodily harm to another person is guilty of a Class I felony.
There is not much legal jargon or complexity to this law. Edibles include candy, liquids, and solids. This certainly includes all of the scenarios we discussed before: coffee, fast food, and Halloween candy. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has held that the statute also applies to “liquid food” or “liquid edibles.” State v. Timm, 163 Wis.2d 894, 472 N.W.2d 593 (Ct. App. 1991). The court apparently approved a broader definition which equates “edible” with “food” as defined in Webster’s Third International Dictionary 722 (1976): “material . . . taken or absorbed into the body . . . to sustain growth . . . and to furnish energy.” 163 Wis.2d 894, 898.
But not any kind of object, drug, or other substance qualifies for a felony charge. Only when the defendant acts with intent to cause bodily harm to another person does that action trigger the statute. Bodily harm is a broad term and includes things as basic as physical pain. But bodily harm does not cover the victim’s hurt feelings or feelings of disgust. Doing something gross to food, on its own, does not qualify as “placing foreign objects in edibles.”
Jury instructions are exactly that: instructions for juries. But they have many more uses. Jury instructions provide the elements of crimes. Elements are small, broken down parts of the offense, and the government must prove each of those parts beyond a reasonable doubt. If the government cannot do that, the court cannot find the defendant guilty of the charge.
Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1354 provides the elements of placing foreign objects in edibles:
We’ve previously discussed the definitions for both edible and bodily harm, and they’re certainly important. Unless both apply to the situation you’re dealing with, this crime has not been committed.
These jury instructions are straightforward and easy to understand, so a trial defense likely won’t focus on the defining the law, but instead whether there is a factual basis underlying each of the elements. Did someone see you place the object in the edible? Or was it simply circumstantial evidence suggesting you did so? Was it possible for other individuals to have placed the item? And finally, did you make a statement or provide law enforcement any kind of incriminating evidence against you?
One of the most important decisions to make, after you’re charged with a crime, is which criminal defense attorney you’ll hire. A criminal defense attorney’s reputation in courtrooms, with opponents, and the results that said attorney has achieved for clients all matter. The basic skill and ability to write and argue for clients is also incredibly important. At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., our criminal defense attorneys regularly hit high marks for all of those important criteria. We’re regularly recognized as one of Wisconsin’s top criminal defense law firms. And with our main office in Milwaukee and satellite offices throughout Wisconsin, we’re prepared to help in all corners of the state.
Finally, we believe in transparent pricing and offer free consultations to potential clients. You’ve nothing to lose except the time, so contact us at (414) 270-0202 and let’s get started.