Van Wagner & Wood, S.C., criminal defense attorneys, Madison, Wisconsin
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When To Hire A Criminal Defense Lawyer


By retaining a criminal defense attorney right away, you greatly improve the possibility of better results. The longer you wait to retain your attorney, the more you stand to risk.

Often times, what appears to be a simple matter takes on an entirely new form of its own when a prosecuting attorney wraps his arms around the case file. A false accusation by a date alleging rape or stalking turns into a formal first degree sexual assault charge or second degree sexual assault plea bargain. Getting busted for possession of drugs can result in significant jail time, or if a minor is present or the quantities are sufficient, a very long stay in a state or federal prison on a federal indictment or grand jury indictment. Whether your case goes to trial or you take a settlement, the facts are the facts: the entire judicial system has the same employer; jury members find innocent people who were falsely accused of a crime guilty beyond a reasonable doubt several times every day in Wisconsin; and you only get one chance to defend your innocence - double jeopardy works both ways.

Under Investigation for a Crime?

If you are under investigation for a crime, your attorney should be present during ALL questioning (not just the questioning after your arrest). Investigators often tell potential defendants that their attorney is not required for the 'preliminary questioning' or the 'routine questions' involved in a 'routine investigation'. However, the answers provided by you to those questions often become evidence at a trial. If you are being investigated and you have retained an attorney, you can tell the investigator that you refuse to answer any questions until your attorney is present. If you have not hired an attorney, then you should ask for the time to do so.

Van Wagner & Wood's attorneys will not consult with a person who is contemplating committing a crime.

A criminal defense attorney can protect you from the convuluted questioning often conducted during an investigation. Additionally, if you are charged for a crime, then by having your attorney retained, you will be able to take advantage of all of the opportunities available to you that might otherwise become unavailable through the passage of time. While every case is different and charges are usually brought upon some type of evidence - albiet circumstantial - the reality is that charges can sometimes be reduced or avoided if your attorney is involved earlier enough in the legal process.


If you have been arrested, the authorities should have provided you with a statement of your rights (Miranda Rights). Those rights include the right to have your attorney present during ALL questioning. You should exercise those rights. By having your attorney present during all questioning, your attorney is able to protect your rights and you. Often times, questions presented in a certain manner by the investigator become evidence used against you in a court of law. Regardless of the question, it is almost always best to defer it to your attorney.

As well, if you are arrested and your attorney is quickly brought into the case, your chances of a better result are greatly improved. Just as when a person is under investigation, when a person is arrested, there may be facts, evidence, or other circumstances known to the authorities, which would not be shared with you until trial, but which your attorney can be privileged. Those and other factors may be immediately availble to cause a reduced charge or prevent a charge. By having your attorney involved, your rights are protected.


The Constitution provides you with the right to a speedy trial. The justice system, which includes the Courts, judges, police and investigators strive to push cases through the system as quickly as possible. If you wait until the last moment to hire a criminal defense attorney, the courts may not be willing to allow you a postponement or extension of time. By involving your attorney early in the process, you may be afforded the time for motions such as those to suppress evidence or determine the validity of a witness that would otherwise be unavailable to you.


Wisconsin provides a right to appeal a prior criminal conviction, however, that right is limited by time. While your rights are preserved for a limited time, it is best to hire an appellate attorney immediately upon conviction so that your appeal can be prepared with consideration of all of the prior testimony, motions, evidence, facts and witnesses.

Contact Van Wagner & Wood

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, call ( locally in Madison, Wisconsin, through Wisconsin) 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. You can also submit information about a criminal offense investigation or charge or a drunk driving OWI investigation or charge for a free case review.