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No charges will be brought against a Baraboo man who hit and killed the passengers in a car, but his attorney, Christopher Van Wagner, says, "Not a single day goes by that he does not think of those people and their families".
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Criminal Charges

A criminal charge is not a conviction. A criminal charge is an accusation. Whenever a person is charged with a crime or drunk driving, the state is making an allegation, which the state must prove. [See Beyond A Reasonable Doubt]

If the state proves its case, then the defendant is convicted of the crime or crimes. Subsequently, the defendant will be sentenced to imprisonment in a state or Federal prison, to jail time in a county or local jail, or to probation, and may be assessed a monetary penalty (called a fine or forfeiture) in addition to the jail or prison time, or in lieu of the jail or prison time.

Under Wisconsin law, crimes are classified by their penalties (the amount of jail or prison time, the amount of fines or forfeitures, or both). The most serious types of crimes are felonies, which carry at least one year (and usually more) imprisonment in the state (or federal) prison, fines, or both. Misdemeanors carry a year or less jail time, fines, or both. And finally, non-criminal charges carry fines.

Noncriminal charges, such as a first drunk driving offense, are often viewed as trivial matters. But even a first offense drunk driving conviction can have devastating effects upon a person's life. Anytime you are charged with an offense, you should consult with an attorney right away. [See Prior Drunk Driving Conviction]

Criminal Complaint

A criminal complaint (or an information) is a document prepared by the prosecuting office. The criminal complaint provides the defendant's identity and informs the defendant of the allegations (alleged criminal charges) being made against that defendant. A criminal complaint should include the statute citation and crime being charged, the victim if applicable, and the date and time at which the alleged crime occurred. However, an information is not required to include such detail. For example, a criminal complaint alleging multiple counts of sexual assault of a minor child may use the charge, "Sexual Assault Of A Minor, Repeated Acts", which means that the prosecutor is alleging that more than one sexual assault occurred, but is not specifically stating the exact dates upon which those assaults allegedly occurred.

Felony Charges

The most severe criminal charge is a felony. The general rule of thumb for distinguishing a felony from a misdemeanor is the prison term of the sentence. Felonies usually provide for a minimum prison sentence of one or more years in a state or Federal prison; conversely, misdemeanors usually provide one year or less in a county or local jail. Felony convictions often include monetary penalties (fines or forfeitures), which may be assessed upon the convicted defendant along with a prison sentence or as is rarely the case, in lieu of a prison sentence.

Sentences for a felony conviction range from one year up to life, and in some instances can include multiple nonconsecutive life sentences. A nonconsecutive sentence means that the sentences imposed upon the convicted felon may not be served simultaneously, rather, they must be served consecutively (one after the other).

A felony conviction remains on a person's criminal record indefinitely. After a felony conviction, the defendant permanently looses certain rights and privileges previously granted by the Constitution of the United States, such as the right to vote or the right to bear arms.

Misdemeanor Charges

All crimes that are not felonies are misdemeanors. Typically, a misdemeanor conviction is punishable by less than one year in county jail or fines, or both. However, some misdemeanor penalties can exceed a one year term. Misdemeanors also remain on a person's criminal record. Those charges may include sex crimes, drug crimes, white collar crimes, and many other crimes that are considered lesser offenses in the eyes of the legal system, but have gravely detrimental effects on a person's life and future. See also misdemeanor charges.

Federal Or State Charges

Any crime proscribed (prohibited by law and defined under the law) by both US Federal law and Wisconsin state law can be charged by both the Federal government and Wisconsin state government. In some cases, crimes are charged by both. In most cases, one or the other government brings criminal charges.

Conflicting defenses are often handled in the same manner. For example, entrapment under federal law will allow a defendant to both assert an entrapment defense and deny any wrongdoing. Conversely, Wisconsin law does not allow a defendant to assert both pleas.

Federal charges are prosecuted by a federal attorney, whereas state charges are prosecuted by a district attorney. Federal charges are tried in a federal court by a federal judge; state charges are tried in a state, county or municipal court, depending upon the charge and the trial procedure.

All state appeals are tried by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. All federal appeals are tried by the US Court of Appeals.

Supreme Court cases in Wisconsin are heard by the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. US Supreme Court cases are heard by the Supreme Court.

Wisconsin Criminal Defense Lawyers

The attorneys at Van Wagner & Wood are experienced criminal defense lawyers. Attorney Chris Van Wagner and Attorney Tracey Wood will represent you regardless of the charges. Once enlisted, they will take steps to avoid charges from being filed whenever possible. Often times, they have persuaded prosecutors to drop charges even when strong evidence existed proving that the crime was committed. If charges are filed, you can be reassured that those attorneys will use their more than thirty combined years of criminal defense experience to defend you and seek the best possible outcome.

Free Initial Consultation

If you are under investigation for a crime or drunk driving offense, if you have already been charged with a crime or drunk driving violation, or if you have already been convicted but believe your conviction or your sentence were wrong, please call or e-mail the attorneys at Van Wagner & Wood right away. They will give you a brief but professional first-impression analysis of your case and your situation, which will allow you to take an important first step in defending the case against you.



Wisconsin law - Crimes against life

First-degree intentional homicide

First-degree reckless homicide

Felony murder

Second-degree intentional homicide

Second-degree reckless homicide

Homicide resulting from the negligent handling of dangerous weapons, explosives, or fire

Homicide by intoxicated use of vehicle or firearm

Homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle (often referred to as vehicular homicide or vehicular murder)

Mutilating or hiding a corpse

Assisting suicide

Abortion and Abortion exceptions

Wisconsin Law - Crimes against bodily security

Battery; substantial battery; aggravated battery

Battery to an unborn child; substantial battery to an unborn child; aggravated battery to an unborn child

Battery; special circumstances

Battery or threat to witnesses

Battery or threat to judge

Battery or threat to department of revenue employee

Battery or threat to department of commerce or department of workforce development employee


Sexual exploitation by therapist; duty to report

Sexual assault

Reckless injury

Injury by negligent handling of dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire

Injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle

Abuse of vulnerable adults

Abuse of residents of penal facilities

Law enforcement officer; failure to render aid

Abuse and neglect of patients and residents

False imprisonment

Taking hostages



Duty to aid victim or report crime

Intimidation of witnesses; misdemeanor

Intimidation of witnesses; felony

Intimidation of victims; misdemeanor

Intimidation of victims; felony

Madison Wisconsin's Best Criminal Defense Lawyers

The criminal defense lawyers of Van Wagner & Wood, former federal and state prosecutor Chris Van Wagner, and current field sobriety test instructor and winner of an outright acquittal in the largest military theft case ever trial in Wisconsin Tracey Wood, defend people in Wisconsin who are under investigation for serious crimes, or who have already been charged with a serious crime such as negligent homicide, or who have already been convicted of a serious crime but believe their conviction or their sentence were wrong. For a confidential professional first analysis of the case against you, please contact the firm right away.

Van Wagner & Wood Will Defend You

Regardless of the charges against you, the criminal defense lawyers at Van Wagner & Wood will defend you. When you place your trust in the hands of Van Wagner & Wood's attorneys, you can rest assuredly that you have done all that you can to ensure the best possible outcome. The criminal defense lawyers of Van Wagner & Wood have won several outright acquittals for their clients, and while there are no guarantees, their record clearly reflects their hard work, their intelligent and professional approach to their cases, and their skill in developing a strategy that fits an individual clients case, while drawing upon their knowledge, experience and skill from past cases.

Attorney Chris Van Wagner has handled matters in rural and urban counties, not to mention the hardened criminal courtrooms of Chicago, Illinois and Trenton, New Jersey, winning cases he was expected to lose quickly.

Attorney Tracey Wood won an outright acquittal All but one other defendant in that case went to federal prison for years.

Free Confidential Initial Consultation

If you are under investigation for a crime, or if you have already been charged with a crime, or if you were convicted of a crime and believe your conviction or sentence were wrong, contact Attorney Christopher Van Wagner (Chris) or Attorney Tracey Wood right away for a confidential free professional first-impression analysis of your case and your situation, which will allow you to take an important first step in defending the case against you.

Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers

Attorney Chris Van Wagner has handled nearly one hundred felony trials in his twenty-plus years as an attorney. His trial cases have ranged from low-level offense all the way to kidnapping, homicide and domestic terrorism.

Attorney Tracey Wood is one of few lawyers in the country consulted by a majority of criminal defense lawyers while they are preparing a legal strategy for their clients. In a case that made the national headlines a few years ago, Attorney Tracey Wood won an outright acquittal when her client was cleared of any wrongdoing in a wide-ranging and emboldened conspiracy scheme that actually stole missile launchers and military tanks from the Ft. McCoy military base in northern Wisconsin.

Trial or Appeal, State or Federal Court

In addition to this solid and successful trial history, Chris and Tracey have also argued and won appeals to the state and federal courts.

Court Approved

In cases where the court appoints an attorney for the defendant, which is not the same as a public defender, the courts require a certain proven level of expertise of the attorney before the court will appoint the lawyer to defend a serious crime. The courts are familiar with the level of expert advice that Attorney Chris Van Wagner gives to his clients, and his level of expertise exhibited in the courtroom. For that reason, the courts have often appointed Chris to represent clients charged with very serious crimes. Additionally, Attorney Chris Van Wagner has often represented clients in the types of cases listed to the left, and those listed above. You can click on the criminal charges below for further information.