A Milwaukee Criminal Defense Lawyer Provides a Guide to Wisconsin Criminal Procedure

Wisconsin criminal procedure - Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer

The first thing most people ask their Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer is “what is going to happen?” At Gamino Law Offices, LLC, we understand that an arrest or criminal charges may be the scariest experience you ever have in your whole life. You need to know what is going to happen if you’re facing criminal charges. Similarly, whether the offense is a felony, misdemeanor, DUI, or a traffic ticket, we will ensure you are informed.

Your Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer is responsible for guiding you through the murky and turbulent waters of the criminal justice system. We represent people who find themselves in the worst situations of their lives. Our clients seek a confident and compassionate attorney to fight on their behalf.

Arrested or Charged with a Crime In WI? Learn the Process of a WI Criminal Case

Facing arrest and criminal charges for violating the law, confronting the possibility of the loss of their liberty and freedom in the form of a jail or prison sentence, is difficult. However, a Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer at our law firm help you throughout the process. For example, we defend your criminal case in Milwaukee, or anywhere in Wisconsin, with clear explanations of the process. Similarly, we inform you what to expect in Court. Finally, we give you a thorough assessment of your options. In summary, throughout your case, we work to inform you and create the best defense to your criminal case.

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FAQ – about Wisconsin criminal law: procedure from arrest through trial

  1. Are all arrests the same?
  2. Is there such a thing as being charged with a non-criminal offense?
  3. What happens if you’re charged with a crime?
  4. What are the steps in a criminal case?
  5. How does plea negotiation work?
1. Are all arrests the same?

No. In some arrests, you’re charged with a crime, while in others you’re not.

You face criminal charges only if the possible penalty includes time in jail or prison. An exception includes jail time for failure to pay a fine or forfeiture, but this failure doesn’t make it a crime.

What is the difference between an arrest for a crime and something that isn’t a crime?

In most cases, traffic offenses and city, town, or county ordinance violations are not criminal offenses. However, in some offenses the State chooses whether to charge an ordinance or a criminal offense. For example, the prosecutor can charge retail theft (shoplifting) or disorderly conduct as a crime or a non-criminal citation. Similarly, some offenses are not criminal for first-time offenders but become a crime for a second violation. The most common example of an offense that isn’t a crime as a first offense but becomes a crime if you do it again is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants in Wisconsin.

What are the different penalties for crimes or non-criminal violations?

A monetary penalty for a crime is called a fine. For a noncriminal offense, it’s called civil forfeiture.

There are some other important differences between criminal and noncriminal cases. First, a criminal conviction may have a negative effect on your employment opportunities, school applications, professional licensing, and so forth. Second, in a criminal case, the prosecution must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt – a stricter requirement than for a non-criminal case. Finally, you have more legal rights in a criminal case. For example, in a criminal case, you have the right to remain silent and the right to the assistance of an attorney. In contrast, in a non-criminal case, the prosecution can call you to the stand and force you to testify against yourself.

2. What constitutes a non-criminal offense?

Ordinance or traffic offense citations (such as speeding) do not constitute a crime. Those cases result in you receiving a citation. In most cases, you won’t be taken into custody. Police lack authority to search you or your property without permission if the take you into custody for a non-criminal offense. The citation will usually give you a choice of paying a forfeiture or going to court. It will state a date for you to appear in court if you choose not to pay the forfeiture.

The name for your first court appearance is the arraignment. At an arraignment, you enter a plea of “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.”

What are the different plea options for a non-criminal violation?

The “no contest” plea means that you are not contesting the offense charged. This means a “no contest” plea will result in your conviction, but the conviction cannot be used against you in a lawsuit. For instance, let’s say you have an auto accident. Then, as a result of the accident, you receive a traffic citation for a violation. If you decide to resolve the citation without a trial you may want to plead “no contest,” in case the other driver decides to sue you.

In most ordinance or traffic cases, when you plead “not guilty” you receive a pretrial date and a trial date. At the pretrial, you’ll meet with the prosecutor and try to settle the case. For example, you may try to change a speeding charge to a lesser point violation. If you can’t resolve the charge at pretrial, you must appear at the trial.

What kind of trial can I have for an ordinance violation?

In non-criminal cases, you do not have an automatic right to a jury trial. Therefore, unless you specifically demand a jury trial and pay the required fee within 10 days of your initial appearance, a judge will decide your case. You may or may not want to have an attorney, depending upon the seriousness of the offense, the status of your driver’s license, and so on.

If the judge finds you guilty and you don’t pay the forfeiture by the deadline for payment, your driver’s license may be suspended if the violation is for a traffic offense. Otherwise, the judge could order you jailed or ordered to perform community service.

3. What happens if you are charged with a crime?

First, usually, police will take you into custody when you’re arrested. Second, the police may read you your rights, photograph you, and take your fingerprints. Third, if you are arrested without a warrant, a judicial magistrate must determine whether there is probable cause to charge you. A commissioner must normally decide if there is probable cause within 48 hours of your arrest. Because issuance of a warrant necessitated a judicial determination of probable cause, therefore 48-hour rule does not apply to an arrest with a warrant.

What are my rights if I’m charged with a crime?

Remember that you have two important rights: The right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer. If you are indigent, an attorney from the State Public Defender’s office will be appointed. Police may not ask you any more questions if you claim either or both these basic rights.

If you are unable to communicate with the court or your attorney because of a disability or a language barrier, an interpreter will be provided for you.

How do I get out of jail if I’m arrested for a crime?

To obtain release from custody after your arrest, you may need to post bail. However, in some cases, you can post bail by signing a signature bond (a written promise to appear in court). In contrast, in other cases, you may need to provide either a secured surety bond or cash. Specifically, a secured surety bond means you put up property, such as a care or a house. Similarly, if you post cash bail, you could post it or someone else on your behalf. In addition, the judge may impose other, non-monetary conditions on you that he or she deems reasonable to protect members of the community.

How much time will I serve if I’m convicted of a crime?

A misdemeanor conviction may result in imprisonment for up to one year, though the maximum penalty varies depending on the offense. Further, any “time” you serve will be in the county jail or house of correction. In contrast, a felony charge is much more serious. A felony conviction can mean a year or more in prison. In either case, it’s very wise to consult a Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. If you can’t afford a lawyer in Wisconsin, you should contact the State Public Defender’s office. You can also ask the judge to refer you to that office or to appoint a lawyer for you.

4. What are the steps in a criminal case?
Initial appearance

In either a Wisconsin misdemeanor or a felony case, the first time you go to court will be your initial appearance. At this hearing, the State will serve you with a criminal complaint that lists the charge against you. The complaint must state the probable cause supporting the charge and the penalty you face. In a misdemeanor case, you’ll also enter a plea at the initial appearance. If you plead “not guilty” to a misdemeanor, you’ll receive a pretrial or trial date.

Preliminary hearing

If you face felony charges in Wisconsin, the next step is the preliminary hearing. At this hearing, the prosecution must present evidence to convince the magistrate that you should stand trial for a felony. The prosecutor must prove that a felony was probably committed and that you probably committed it. If the state meets its burden to show probable cause to believe you committed a felony within the jurisdiction, then the case proceeds to arraignment. At the arraignment, the district attorney will serve you with formal charges for a particular felony. At this time, you must enter a plea.

In both misdemeanor and felony cases, you have the right to a jury trial. The jury must consist of 12 people and the verdict must be unanimous. If the State convicts you of a felony, you lose certain rights, including the right to possess firearms forever. For a felony conviction, you also lose the right to vote until the restoration of your civil rights at the completion of your sentence.

5. How does plea negotiation work?

In most cases, your attorney and the prosecutor will meet to discuss your case before it goes to trial. The prosecutor may offer to negotiate with your attorney.

There are many possible types of plea agreements.

The prosecutor may offer a reduced charge. Similarly, if you’re charged with several offenses, the State may offer to dismiss or “read in” one or more charges. A read in charge results in dismissal of the charge. However, to “read in” a charge means you won’t plead guilty to that charge, but the offense may be considered for sentencing. In return, the State will expect you to plead guilty or no contest to at least one offense. Further, in plea negotiations, sometimes the plea agreement will be a recommendation for a particular sentence. In contrast, a plea deal may be an agreement that the prosecutor will make no sentence recommendation.

Does the judge have to abide by plea negotiations when the agreement is to recommend a specific sentence?

The judge does not have to honor the plea agreement. Notably, your attorney and the judge must explain this to you. Further, they must also explain all the possible results of a plea of guilty or no contest.

The judge will frequently pronounce sentence immediately in a misdemeanor case. In a felony case, the judge may order a presentence investigation and set a separate sentencing date. Sentencing may be delayed in either case because Wisconsin law requires that the State notify victims of the sentencing date and given an opportunity to be heard.

In conclusion, contact us for more information about a state or federal Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer. Our Milwaukee, Wisconsin criminal defense attorneys look forward to serving you!  Also visit our informative Wisconsin criminal lawyer resources page.