Theft of telecommunications service is a crime in Wisconsin.  Contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202 to discuss your case.

Theft of telecommunications service is a crime in Wisconsin.  Telecommunications services are defined in section 182.017(1g)(cq) of the Wisconsin Statutes.  The term means “the offering for sale of the conveyance of voice, data, or other information, including the sale of service for collection, storage, forwarding, switching, and delivery incidental to such communication regardless of the technology or mode used to make such offering.”

Voice is telephone.  Data could be your internet or cable television service.  A foolish decision to save money in college could be enough for you to face criminal charges and time in jail.  The charge is a misdemeanor, unless it’s committed more than once for commercial advantage or private financial gain.  In the latter case, the charge is a Class I felony, punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison.  This is obviously a significant penalty.  Hire a significant lawyer:

At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., we dedicate ourselves to helping individuals accused of committing crimes throughout Wisconsin.  We’d like to talk to you about your case, which is why we offer potential clients free consultations.  During that consultation, you’ll have the opportunity to come into our office and speak with one of our criminal defense lawyers.  To schedule that consultation, contact us at (414) 270-0202 immediately.

What is theft of telecommunications services?  Section 943.45(1) of the Wisconsin Statutes:

(1) No person may intentionally obtain or attempt to obtain telecommunications service, as defined in s. 182.017 (1g) (cq), by any of the following means:
(a) Charging such service to an existing telephone number or credit card number without the consent of the subscriber thereto or the legitimate holder thereof.
(b) Charging such service to a false, fictitious, suspended, terminated, expired, canceled or revoked telephone number or credit card number.
(c) Rearranging, tampering with or making connection with any facilities or equipment.
(d) Using a code, prearranged scheme, or other stratagem or device whereby said person in effect sends or receives information.
(e) Using any other contrivance, device or means to avoid payment of the lawful charges, in whole or in part, for such service.

The statute is relatively straightforward, with the lettered subsections focusing on how the defendant attempted to obtain the telecommunications service.  Importantly, using some of the prohibited actions also exposes the defendant to additional charges, such as identity theft.  For example, subsection (a) requires the defendant use a third party’s credit card number without their consent, which likely qualifies as a crime under both sections.

Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1495

As with all crimes in Wisconsin, theft of telecommunications service charges are accompanied by a set of jury instructions.  Jury instructions break crimes down into smaller, easier to understand parts.  We call these parts elements.  And importantly, the government must prove all the elements of a crime against you beyond a reasonable doubt.  If they fail that task, the jury must find you not guilty of the charge.  The elements of this charge are:

  • Firstly, the defendant obtained (or attempted to obtain) telecommunications service;
  • Secondly, the defendant obtained (or attempted to obtain) service by charging it to a telephone number or credit card of another person.
  • Thirdly, the subscriber of the telephone number or credit card did not consent to the charges made by the defendant.
  • Fourthly, the defendant acted intentionally.
  • And finally, the defendant obtained or attempted to obtain telecommunications service for commercial advantage or private financial gain.  Private financial gain requires that the defendant received a financial benefit beyond simply receiving the service without paying for it.

These jury instructions seem to be missing something, right?  This is the Class A misdemeanor version of this offense – the most serious one, prohibited in section 943.45(1)(a) of the Wisconsin Statutes, paired with the attempt to pursue financial gain.  Cases not involving the pursuit of commercial advantage or private financial gain are Class B and C misdemeanors.

So what if I just connected to someone else’s service or equipment?

This is certainly the version of this charge that most people think about when considering this crime.  Somehow someone finagles a cable box in a way that they’re able to receive free internet or cable television.  Section 943.45(1)(c) deals with this offense.  A first-time offender faces a Class C misdemeanor penalty, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500.00 fine.  A second or subsequence offense results in a Class B misdemeanor penalty, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000.00 fine.

It’s when a defendant seeks “direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain” that this charge becomes a Class A misdemeanor (and then a Class I felony for a second or subsequent offense).  For example, if the defendant connects to his neighbor’s cable box, and then uses that connection to pursue a fee from another individual, the charge escalates to the more-serious version.  While the previous jury instructions focus on fraudulently using a credit card to obtain those services, any of the versions of the charge become a Class A misdemeanor when paired with the financial pursuit.

Cables connect to a computer
Theft of telecommunications is a crime in Wisconsin. If you face these or any other criminal charges, contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202.

Contact Van Severen Law Office regarding your theft of telecommunications service case.  (414) 270-0202

The layout of this specific criminal charge is a bit more confusing than we usually see.  There are different versions of the crime, second or subsequent offenses face increased penalties, and the pursuit of financial gain is another escalator.  Sifting through this might seem like a lot to face on your own.  And that’s where we step in.

Van Severen Law Office, S.C. is a criminal defense law firm focused entirely on helping individuals in situations just like yours.  100% of our focus is on criminal defense.  Our daily dedication to this area of law makes us better at it.  And when we’re better at it, you see better results.

Finally, the next step is up to you: we can’t help you unless you reach out.  Contact us at (414) 270-0202 immediately to schedule a free consultation and speak with one of our criminal defense lawyers.

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