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Defendants convicted on felony charges may face very long prison sentences. A fifth or subsequent drunk driving offense is a felony. Some drug crimes are felonies. Homicide is a felony. Anyone convicted of a felony for any of these types of charges may serve the same sentence in the same prison. Report on drug crimes.
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Felony offenses -vs- Misdemeanor offenses

Both felony offenses and misdemeanor offenses are crimes under Wisconsin laws. Wisconsin law defines a felony as any crime for which a person can be imprisoned for one or more years in a state or federal prison, and a misdemeanor is any other crime. Some of the numerous other differences between a felony conviction and a misdemeanor conviction are listed below.

Incarceration (Jail or Prison Sentences)

Felony Conviction Imprisonment

If a person is convicted of a felony under Wisconsin laws, a separate sentencing hearing will be held after the trial and verdict. At that hearing, the court will determine the punishment to be imposed upon the convicted felon. A felony conviction can result in sentencing to prison, fines, or both. Incarceration will be in a state penetenuary (a state prison), or some other facility such as a mental health facility as determined necessary by the court.

Misdemeanor Conviction Incarceration

Conversely, if a person is convicted of a misdemeanor, while the sentence can still include incarceration, fines or both, incarceration will not be in a state prison, but rather in a county or local municipal jail. As well, a court can order a person convicted of a misdemeanor offense to serve time in a mental health facility, a drug rehabilitation center, or as determined necessary by the court.

Federal Felony & Misdemeanor Conviction Sentences

The information above regarding incarceration is for convictions under Wisconsin state law. If however a federal agency brings charges and the person is subsequently convicted of a federal offense, incarceration will be in a federal prison.

If a person is charged with both a Wisconsin state felony and a federal felony then, if both governments pursue prosecution and both obtain a conviction, incarceration can be in both a federal prison and a state prison. In that case, the sentence would order the time served to run concurrently or non-concurrent. If the incarcerated time runs concurrent, time served fulfills both time in the federal prison and time in the state prison. In most cases, federal and state time would not run concurrent.

Court Discretion

Except for certain crimes, a court is not required to impose a particular sentence for a particular criminal conviction, but rather may exercise its discretionary powers and impose a sentence that the court feels is befitting of the crime, within certain limitations. Those limits apply to the maximum sentences allowed by law. A court can impose a maximum sentence for each offense, even if multiple offenses were charged and convicted. For all senteces, a court is required to consider the necessity of imprisonment, the impact on the safety of the community and the crime.

In cases involving a conviction for murder, a court can impose life imprisonment (see Class A Felony Penalties). A person who is sentenced to live imprisonment is eligible for parole under Wisconsin laws.

Wisconsin Circuit Court judges are known for harsh penalties, and people are often sentenced to very long prison terms. The criminal defense attorneys at Van Wagner & Wood have sucessfully challenged sentences imposed by Wisconsin circuit courts.

Probation Instead of Prison

A court can order a person to serve a term of probation for up to many years instead of prison time for any felony conviction. A court can also order an entire list of conditions or rules that the convicted person must abide while on probation. Probation should not be taken lightly by anyone. As Chris Van Wagner has often said, "being on probation is like being married to someone you did not pick, you do not like, and yet you cannot divorce."

Additionally, the rules of probation differ for persons convicted of a felony than for those convicted of a misdemeanor. If a person was previously convicted on a felony, and is subsequently placed on probation, the probation officer can treat the felon very differently. For example, the rules can be tougher, but more imporantly, the probation officer can place the felon on probation in jail on hold for a period of up to 90 days for no more reasons than that the probation officer believed the felon on probation may have violated a probationary rule or had an intent to violate probation.

Before you elect to accept a conviction and a sentence of probation, it might be worth your time to consult with Attorney Chris Van Wagner or Attorney Tracey Wood. To confer with a lawyer at Van Wagner & Wood, please call ( or ) or e-mail ( ) the attorneys at Van Wagner & Wood. 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.