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Criminal Defense

Wisconsin Criminal Law

Criminal Law is a general term used to refer to all of the laws of a city, a state, or the federal government that exist to prevent crimes or violations of societys rules. Criminal Law also refers to the profession of providing legal representation to people suspected, accused, or convicted of a crime. Despite its name, criminal law includes both criminal and noncriminal laws.

What Is A Crime?

A crime is an illegal act prohibited by law and punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both. A noncriminal illegal act is conduct prohibited by law, but only punishable by forfeiture (fines and property surrenders). The codified laws define each element of a crime that the state (or federal) prosecuting attorney must prove for a conviction, and provide punishment guidelines (and sentencing guidelines) for minimum and maximum jail time, prison time and fines. The Constitution of the United States provides laws to protect the rights of those accused of a crime including the right to refrain from testifying against ones self and the right to legal representation (criminal defense lawyer).

Who Is Your Attorney?

The person charged is the defendant. The person representing the defendant is a criminal defense attorney. Your criminal defense lawyer will defend you, protect your rights from being violated, assess the charge or charges against you, seek to have charges dismissed or reduced whenever that is an option, motion the court to have evidence suppressed if it should be, and explain your options to you.

You Are Up Against The Government & Their Attorneys

The state or Federal government is the plaintiff in a criminal case and is represented by the District Attorneys office that assigns a prosecutor. The police, prosecutor, district attorney, judge, and bailiff are all members of the justice system. All of the facts, evidence, forensics lab findings, police investigation, and witness testimony create the case, and the prosecutor tries to prove that case against the defendant in a court of law. However, none of the members of the justice system will help you understand the written law, the criminal defense process, how to have charges dismissed, or how to suppress evidence; in fact, the entire criminal justice system seeks the exact opposite outcomes because the criminal justice system exists to investigate suspects, compile evidence, charge suspects, prove guilt, and obtain satisfaction on behalf of the public for the wrong doing. That satisfaction comes by way of jail or prison sentences imposed upon the convicted defendant, fines, or both, and may include the death penalty.

Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system is a huge network of policing authorities, crime labs, forensics specialists, prosecutors, judges, correctional facilities, and public defenders. The criminal defense process involves very complex procedural rules. Anyone suspected, charged, or convicted of a crime should seek legal advice from a very experienced criminal defense attorney. To achieve the best possible outcome, you should call or request a free initial review of your case online.

Juvenile Justice System

Crimes committed by children (people under the age of 18 years), known as juvenile crimes, fall under juvenile law and the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system. Juvenile court procedures tend to be less formal, and many juvenile justice systems offer alternative sentencing, such as diversionary programs and voluntary probation sentences.

Criminal Charges and Noncriminal Charges

Charges are allegations, which are accusations; they are not convictions. Criminal charges accuse a person of violating a state or Federal law (statute), and regardless of the evidence gathered, must be proven by a prosecuting attorney in a court of law or admitted (confessed) to by the defendant. Examples of criminal charges include Murder, Negligent Homicide, Fifth Offense OWI, First Degree Sexual Assault, Theft by Fraud (Embezzlement), and Drug Manufacturing.

Noncriminal charges accuse a person of violating a city ordinance or a noncriminal state or federal law. Examples of noncriminal charges include First Offense OWI and Speeding.

Charges are said to be brought against a person when they are formally recorded by the department of the justice system (usually the district attorney office), and the person is said to be formally charged or charged with a specific offense or offenses. Before formal charges are filed, a person is suspected of committing a crime. When the state files formal charges against a person, called an indictment or filing an information, the state is indicting the person on the charges. Once indicted, the prosecutor tries to prove the persons guilt, referred to as prosecuting the case, and the criminal defense lawyer tries to defend the accused person against those charges by raising reasonable doubt during a criminal trial. If the jury does not believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, they must acquit - find the defendant not guilty. Otherwise, they convict - find the defendant guilty. If found guilty, the defendant has an automatic right to appeal.

Felony, Misdemeanor, Forfeiture

Wisconsin law classifies criminal and noncriminal offenses into one of three categories according to the severity of the act: Felony, Misdemeanor, and Forfeiture (Fines). Felony charges are the most severe offenses, and are punishable by one or more years of imprisonment in the Wisconsin state prison system, or fines, or both. All other crimes are Misdemeanors, and are punishable by less than one year in county jail or fines, or both. Forfeitures are fines and property surrenders - they are the punishment for a non criminal conviction. Your attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss some or all of the charges against you.

Indictment or Information

An indictment may include one or more charges, and those charges may include one or more classifications (severity) of crimes. Several crimes also include potential enhancers (charges to increase the severity of a crime and the sentencing on conviction). Charges are sometimes negotiable, but that is a question best asked of your attorney.

Wisconsins Open Records Law - Criminal Records

Wisconsins Open Records law provides public access to the Wisconsin Circuit Court information database - - called CCAP. Most criminal charges and civil infractions are published on CCAP. People convicted of sex crimes are often required to register with the state Sex Offender Registry.

Drunk Driving - Criminal Charges

A first offense drunk driving charge is a noncriminal offense. The charge is recorded on the Wisconsin Circuit Court website where any future employer may see it, and permanently retained on record by the Department of Transportation. A second through fourth drunk driving offense is a misdemeanor charge, whereas a fifth or subsequent drunk driving charge is a felony.

Criminal Investigation

If you are under investigation, whether you have been questioned, you are a suspect. If the police question you, regardless of what they say, you have the right to have your attorney present. If police believe that you possess evidence, they may ask you for access into your home, or they may ask a judge for a search warrant. If they access your home without your permission, or without a search warrant, they may be committing an illegal search (under certain specific circumstances, an officer or agent may access your home without permission or warrant), and if they take property from your home during that search, they are committing an illegal seizure.

During the investigation process, if authorities have gathered enough evidence to convince a judge that a crime was committed and that you committed that crime or were party to its commission, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. When the police receive an arrest warrant, they take you into custody, regardless of the charges and regardless of whether you are innocent. The actual charges determine the type and amount of bond allowed, or whether a bond may be set.

In complex cases, such as computer crimes, child pornography, drug crimes, embezzlement, fraud, homicide, identity theft, property crimes, rape, stalking, theft, and white collar crimes, an investigation may take a very long time. Regardless of the crime, contacting your attorney at the first hint that you are under investigation can make all the difference in the outcome.

Police without a warrant may also arrest people, such as when police stop someone for swerving, detect alcohol, administer a field sobriety test, and make an arrest for drunk driving. Police also ticket speeders, but speeding is not a crime. Police observing or answering a call for a burglary, assault, battery, violent dispute, domestic disputes, reckless driver, vandalism, or drug sale will arrest the assailant (person committing an assault) or perpetrator (person breaking the law) without an investigation (if they have sound reason to believe the assailant committed the crime or they witnessed the crime being committed). In these situations, you have no advance warning of the upcoming arrest, but if you call () or e-mail the attorneys at Van Wagner & Wood right away, they will be able to answer all of your questions whether you have been charged or not.

Note: Battery and Battery With A Deadly Weapon are synonomous with "simple battery" and "substantial battery". Battery is defined by the intended degree of injury. Wisconsin law does not provide for the crime of assault and battery. A criminal assault is an attempted battery under Wisconsin law. An assault occurs when the intended victim is apprehensive of a battery, therefore the intended victim would necessarily know that the battery was about to occur. A battery does not require that the intended victim be aware of the imminent harm. See Wisconsin crime of battery and separately, Wisconsin crime of sexual assault.

Appeals & Conviction Remedies

An appeal challenges a courts conviction or sentencing. A post conviction remedy must be filed with the trial court immediately upon conviction. A criminal appeal is heard by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, and may be appealed to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. If you have been convicted of a crime and believe your conviction or sentencing were wrong, or you were falsely charged or wrongly accused, call or e-mail the attorneys at Van Wagner & Wood right away right away. [Appeals] [Post Conviction Remedies]

What to Do First

If you are under investigation for a criminal 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. Attorney Chris Van Wagner & Attorney Tracey Wood devote themselves exclusively to helping people suspected, accused, or convicted of a criminal charge, ordinance violation, or drunk driving. 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.