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State v. Stepniewski

    Citation. 105 Wis. 2d 261,314 N.W.2d 98,1982 Wisc.

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellants were charged with violations of trade practice. Appellants contend that the statute requires a mental state that they did not possess.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The act in question is a regulation that is meant to inflict a penalty regardless of the knowledge or motives of the person who has violated its provisions.


    Facts. Appellants were each convicted of trade practice violations. In particular, it was alleged that Appellants on several occasions failed to state in writing projects’ start and end dates. On the occasions when they did enter such a date, Appellants had not completed the project. The victims were elderly and retired citizens whose homes were damaged in the winter from Appellants’ failure to complete the projects.

    Issue. Whether the State must prove intentional conduct by a defendant in all charged circumstances of the violation for a conviction.

    Held. Affirmed.
    The act in question is a regulation that is meant to inflict a penalty regardless of the knowledge or motives of the person who has violated its provisions.

    It is reasonable and necessary for the legislature to protect the innocent by placing a burden of regularity, evenhandedness and legal guidelines on individuals who provided this service.

    Dissent. The dissent argues that the there is a requirement of scienter in this statute because of the use of the word ‘intentionally’. The dissent focused on the similarity between this statute and others that resembled essentially larceny statutes and thus would require a scienter showing, just like a violation of a larceny statute.

    Discussion. The Court focused on the language of the statute itself and the legislative intent behind the statute. The Court noted that the legislature was concerned with protecting the public welfare and thus was enacting a statute with prohibitions that did not need to be accompanied with a mental state.


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