Process of a Criminal Case in Wisconsin
Oct 31, 2016
No one wants to find themselves sitting in the back of a police car. Unfortunately, this is the predicament you are in. Whether you committed the alleged crime or not, you will be going through the criminal court process. Depending on if the charges are a felony or misdemeanor will determine whether you are released from jail or have to appear before the court first.
A crime is a misdemeanor if the maximum length of imprisonment is not more than one year in the county jail. Misdemeanors include disorderly conduct, battery cases with minor injury, criminal damage to property with less than $2,500 in damage, theft for less than $2,500, possession of THC and drug paraphernalia, most second, and third offenses of operating while intoxicated.
A crime is a felony if the maximum length of imprisonment is longer than a year. Felonies include possession, manufacturing and delivery of drugs, substantial battery, burglary, theft for more than $2,500, and fourth offense operating while intoxicated or higher.
Whether you are being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony criminal charge, your first court hearing will be an initial appearance. If you are being charged with a misdemeanor, at this hearing you will be formally charged and you will be allowed to enter your plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. If you are being charged with a felony, the judge will explain your rights, address bail and schedule a preliminary hearing date.
The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine if the state has enough evidence against you to go to trial and charge you with a felony. Both sides present a portion of their case to the Judge. If the Judge decides that there is probable cause you will have an arraignment hearing where you will enter your plea and your case will be set for trial. You have a right to waive your preliminary hearing and this is done many times in connection with an offer to resolve the case known as a plea agreement.
Many cases are settled prior to trial by entering into a plea agreement with the district attorney. In exchange for pleading guilty, the district attorney will offer a lesser charge or a lighter sentence. The plea agreement needs to be approved by the judge. A plea agreement is usually offered by the time of the pre-trial conference. When you enter into a plea agreement you can avoid having to take your case to trial.
If there is no plea agreement reached at the pre-trial conference, your case will be set for trial. You have a right to a jury trial, but you can choose to waive the jury trial and continue with a trial to the court. Trials can take one day or several days depending on the case. If you win your jury trial, then your case is complete. If convicted, you could be sentenced immediately or the court may schedule a future hearing for sentencing.
The sentencing hearing is the final step for criminal charges. The Judge determines the penalties appropriate for the crimes you have been convicted of. If you are convicted of a felony charge, the court may order a Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI). A probation officer will interview you and produces a report which includes personal information about you including family history, educational background, physical and mental health, your criminal history and willingness to accept responsibility for the offense. The PSI report will make a recommendation for sentencing but ultimately the Judge has the final decision.
Whether you are facing a misdemeanor or felony charge, Pedersen Law Office, LLC offers free consults for all criminal cases and will meet with you personally to discuss your specific circumstances and see what options are available for you. Our law office serves the communities of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Green Bay and their surrounding areas.