Call Van Severen Law Office to discuss your operating a vehicle without owner’s consent case

Operating a vehicle without owner’s consent is a serious charge in Wisconsin.  Sometimes called grand theft auto in other jurisdictions, this charge focuses on stealing a vehicle from someone else.  Importantly, while this charge is not called carjacking, one version of operating without owner’s consent mirrors that charge.  This might sound confusing, but it isn’t.  Different jurisdictions call different crimes different names.  Wisconsin law does not include anything titled carjacking.

Either way, the criminal defense attorneys at Van Severen Law Office have a significant amount of experience defending criminal charges involving vehicles and property.  Frequently these charges are felony-level, with the potential for significant prison sentences.  We recognize how serious these charges are, and we dedicate 100% of our practice to defending individuals just like you.

If you’re facing a charge for operating a vehicle without owner’s consent, contact our law firm immediately.  We offer free, one-hour initial consultations to individuals facing criminal charges.  Call (414) 270-0202 to begin speaking with our firm and to set up your consultation.

free consultation client testimonials

What are the penalties?

Section 943.23 of the Wisconsin Statutes defines operating a vehicle without owners consent.  The crime, along with penalty levels, are listed in Sections 943.23(1g) – 943.23(5).

Operating vehicle without owner’s consent is a Class C felony if the defendant possess a dangerous weapon, and while using or threatening to use that weapon, the defendant intentionally took a vehicle without consent of the owner.  Wis. Stat. sec. 943.23(1g).

Operating vehicle without owner’s consent is a Class H felony if the defendant intentionally takes and drives a vehicle without the consent of the owner.  Wis. Stat. sec. 943.23(2).

This crime is a Class I felony if the defendant intentionally drives a vehicle without the consent of the owner.  Wis. Stat. sec. 943.23(3).  The difference between this section and the previous one deals with “taking.”  This section does not include the defendant taking the vehicle, but simply driving it.

It’s a Class A misdemeanor when the defendant accompanies as a passenger of the vehicle, another defendant who drivers or operates a vehicle without the owner’s consent.

Finally, operating vehicle without owner’s consent can be a Class I felony when the defendant intentionally removes a major part of a vehicle without consent of the owner.  It’s a Class A misdemeanor when the defendant intentionally removes any other part or component of a vehicle without consent of the owner.

Both Sections 943.23(2) and (3) can be reduced to a Class A misdemeanor, if the defendant abandons the vehicle, in an undamaged condition, within 24 hours of the taking of the vehicle.


What is operating a vehicle without owner’s consent?

At your initial consultation your criminal defense attorney is likely to talk about the “elements” of the offense.  Elements are parts of an offense that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.  They’re the ingredients in the recipe.  If one of the ingredients is missing, a jury must find the defendant “not guilty.”  Operating a vehicle without owner’s consent has two elements:

  1. The defendant intentionally drove/operated a vehicle without the consent of the owner.
  2. The defendant knew that the owner of the vehicle did not consent to the driving/operating of the vehicle.

A few definitions are important in understanding this crime.

  • Drive means to exercise physical control over the speed and direction of a vehicle necessary to put it into motion.
  • Operate means the physical manipulation or activation of any of the controls of a vehicle necessary to put it into motion.

Importantly, a person may drive/operate a vehicle without the owner’s consent even though the owner consented to the original taking.  Broken down, this is the kind of situation where an individual borrows another’s car.  If I keep that car longer than you agreed to, I’m committing a crime.  Your Milwaukee criminal defense attorneys will discuss the criminal elements of the offense at your initial consultation.


What about defending my case?

Each criminal case is different, and each criminal case requires a different defense.  At the initial consultation with your criminal defense lawyer, we’ll discuss possible defenses to your case.  Sometimes we’ll have motions to file.  Other times we’ll be looking to take your case to jury trial.  Finally, sometimes cases resolve via plea negotiations.

Importantly, operating without owners consent has a special defense, called an affirmative defense.  An affirmative defense says “I did it” but there’s a legal reason for doing it.  Affirmative defenses either reduce the penalty or cause the defendant to be found “not guilty.”  In this case, the affirmative defense reduces the penalty to a Class A misdemeanor.

The question is, did “the defendant abandoned the vehicle without damage within 24 hours after the vehicle was taken from the possession of the owner?”  Abandon means that the defendant must have freely, voluntarily, and permanently given up possession of the vehicle.  The giving up of possession is not free and voluntary if it was done because of fear of immediate capture by police.  Additionally, a person who sold or gives the vehicle to another person has not abandoned it within the meaning of the statute.


A Kia vehicle stolen in Milwaukee
Stealing a vehicle is charged in Wisconsin as operating a vehicle without owner’s consent. Frequently various car brands experience theft epidemics, with Kias being targeted in the early 2020s. If you’re facing charges for stealing a car, contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202.

Need a defense attorney?  Facing operating vehicle without owner’s consent?

Facing felony charges alone can be scary.  But we think it’s even scarier if you’re facing these charges with the wrong criminal defense attorney.  Remember: just because someone accepts your money doesn’t mean they’re good.

But that’s different at Van Severen Law Office, S.C., where our criminal defense attorneys and firm have been recognized as some of the best in Wisconsin.  We regularly fight charges involving stolen vehicles and we understand what’s necessary to successfully defend a client facing this charge.

Contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202 to begin speaking with one of our criminal defense lawyers.

icon-angle icon-bars icon-times