CALL : 414-270-0202

Wisconsin Criminal Felony Penalties

Felony penalties in Wisconsin: What are they?

Felony penalties in Wisconsin are serious.  But first, what is a felony?  In Wisconsin, “A crime is conduct which is prohibited by state law and punishable by fine or imprisonment or both.  Conduct punishable by only a forfeiture is not a crime.”  Wis. Stat. § 939.12.

So, it’s a crime.  It is not a forfeiture.  But what’s the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

Crimes are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies.  The main difference between felonies and misdemeanors is simple.  It’s time.  For a felony you could go to prison.  Time in prison is as short as 12 months or as long as life.  For a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is 12 months jail.

Felony definition:

The legislature’s definition of felony certainly isn’t very helpful.  Section of the Wisconsin Statutes 939.60 “defines” felonies and misdemeanors:

A crime punishable by imprisonment in the Wisconsin state prisons is a felony.  Every other crime is a misdemeanor.

But this definition makes clear that it isn’t simply about time.  A crime is a felony if you can go to prison for it.  Otherwise it’s a misdemeanor.


free consultation client testimonials

Felonies carry a variety of sentences:

A 12 month sentence is much different than a life sentence.  One is painful.  The other is a complete restriction of our liberty for the rest of your life.  So, how do we break down felonies?

Felonies range from Class A to Class I and carry different penalties.  Section 939.50 of the Wisconsin Statutes describes all felony penalties:

  • Firstly, a Class A felony: life imprisonment.
  • Secondly, a Class B felony: 60 years in prison (no statutorily required fine).
  • Thirdly, a Class C felony: 40 years in prison, a fine of up to $100,000.00, or both.
  • Fourthly, Class D felony: 25 years in prison, a fine of up to $100,000.00, or both.
  • Class E felony: 15 years, a fine of up to $50,000.00, or both.
  • Next, a Class F felony: 12 years and 6 months prison, a fine of up to $25,000.00, or both.
  • Class G felony: 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000.00, or both.
  • Class H felony: 6 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000.00, or both.
  • Finally, the lowest level felony is a Class I felony, which is punished by imprisonment of up to 3 years and 6 months, a fine of up to $10,000.00, or both.

Will that entire sentence be spent in custody?  (No – it almost certainly won’t.)

It’s important to point out that the entire term of imprisonment will not be spent in prison.  Felony sentences in Wisconsin are bifurcated, meaning they’re split into two parts: Initial confinement and extended supervision.  Misdemeanor sentences spent in prison are also subject to this rule.

Section 973.01 of the Wisconsin Statutes describes bifurcated penalties in Wisconsin:

  • Firstly, for a Class B  felony, the term of confinement in prison may not exceed 40 years.  The term of extended supervision may not exceed 20 years; or
  • Class C felony, the term of confinement in prison may not exceed 25 years.  The term of extended supervision may not exceed 15 years; or
  • Class D felony, the term of confinement may not exceed 15 years.  The term of extended supervision may not exceed 10 years; or
  • Class E felony, the term of confinement may not exceed 10 years.  The term of extended supervision may not exceed 5 years; or
  • Class F felonythe term of confinement may not exceed 7 years and 6 months.  The term of extended supervision may not exceed 5 years; or
  • Class G felony, the term of confinement may not exceed 5 years.  The term of extended supervision may not exceed 5 years; or
  • Class H felony, the term of confinement may not exceed 3 years.  The term of extended supervision may not exceed 3 years; or
  • Lastly, for a Class I felony, the term of confinement may not exceed 1 year and 6 months.  The term of extended supervision may not exceed 2 years.

What is the punishment for an unspecified felony?

For any crime other than the felonies discussed above and certain attempted felonies, the term of confinement in prison may not exceed 75% of the total length of the bifurcated sentence.  The term of extended supervision may not be less than 25% of the total length of the term of confinement in prison.

When a life sentence is imposed, special rules apply.  The court is provided a few options: find that the person is eligible for extended supervision once he has served 20 years in confinement; determine a certain date after serving 20 years for release to extended supervision; or find that the person is not eligible for extended supervision.  A person sentenced under this procedure is not eligible for parole.  If the court finds that the person qualifies as a “persistent repeater,” that person shall be sentenced without the possibility of parole or extended supervision.


Felony penalties
Felony penalties in Wisconsin are serious. Contact one of our criminal defense attorneys immediately for questions: (414) 270-0202.

Questions about felony penalties?  Call our criminal defense attorneys.

Penalty classifications seem straightforward, but can get quickly confusing.  And confused is the last thing you should be while fighting a criminal charge.  Your defense lawyer should certainly be able to answer every single one of your questions while moving through a case.

If you’re seeking one of the best Milwaukee criminal defense attorneys for representation, contact Meyer Van Severen today.  Our criminal defense attorneys respond to phone calls 24/7.

(Updated December 3, 2019 at 5:41 p.m.)