Court Process

  • Before the initial appearance, we will review the Criminal Complaint and discuss if there are any challenges to it for a lack of probable cause.
  • We update the Court with your most current contact information and give some basic information about you.
  • We will argue bond and for your release while the case is pending. Bond can be either set on your own recognizance, also called a signature bond, or bond can be in the form of bail, where you will pay an amount of money as a promise to return to court. Bail money is returned at the end of each case, with any court fees deducted. If we anticipate a cash bail to be set, we will discuss with you beforehand how much we think is necessary depending on the type of case and any other factors. We also will argue for what the terms or conditions of release will be, this could include a no contact order, a no weapons order, or other similar conditions.
  • Preliminary hearings only occur in felony cases.
  • Any challenges to the Criminal Complaint for lack of probable cause must occur prior to this hearing.
  • At this hearing, the burden of proof is low, and the determination is whether there is a plausible account that a felony was committed in the State of Wisconsin. The prosecution will usually produce a police officer that will testify to the allegations in the Criminal Complaint. You have a statutory right to have a preliminary hearing and you also have a to waive the preliminary hearing. We will discuss your options with you and our recommendation as to whether you should have a preliminary hearing or waive the preliminary hearing prior to this appearance.
  • This is usually done right after the Preliminary Hearing, but not always. At this hearing we will formally enter Not Guilty pleas for all your charges.
  • Prior to the arraignment, we will discuss with you whether we want to exercise your right to substitute the judge. Substitution of judge must occur prior to the arraignment. You are afforded only one opportunity to substitute the judge and you are not able to pick which judge you want if you exercise your right to substitution.
  • However, sometimes we know that your judge could change later on in the case, and we may strategically decide not to exercise your right to substitution if we know that could occur. If your judge changes during the pendency of the case and you have not used your right to substitution, you are able to exercise with 15 days of being given notice of the new judge.
  • Some counties have preset pre-trial conferences. This is a date where we meet with the prosecutor briefly and obtain a formal offer to settle your case. Usually, this is not done before a judge and is informal. We will discuss any offer you would like to propose to the prosecutor if that is part of the goals we established in your case.
  • The Court will set dates for a scheduling/status conference to determine how the parties wish to proceed in the case, specifically, whether or not it appears that the case will settle or will go to trial.
  • Timelines can be set at these hearings for turning over certain evidence and filing motions.
  • The Court could also set status conferences to get an update on the case and make sure that you appear and are complying with the terms of your bond. You can think of these hearings as check-in dates with the Court, where there are big determinations that are not usually made.
  • If we reach a resolution to your case that is in line with your goals, this is the hearing where you will enter a No Contest or Guilty plea to the charges, reduced charges, or even a ticket. Sentencing can happen on the same date, but not necessarily.
  • If we have decided to go to trial in your case, then this is the final hearing the Court will discuss remaining issues, requests by either party, and rules for the trial.
  • Sometimes the prosecutor proposes a better offer or plea, but not necessarily.
  • Before the Final Pre-Trial we will have our Witness Lists, Motions in Limine, and any other pre-trial motion filed with the Court.
  • There are two types of trial, a jury trial and trial to the Court. Jury trials are most common as they consist of twelve people coming in from the community to decide whether the prosecution has proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt. All twelve jurors must agree as to whether you are guilty or not guilty. During a trial to the Court, the judge decides whether you are guilty or not guilty.
  • At a trial, you have a constitutional right to testify and a constitutional right not to testify. We will discuss your choice and our opinion as to whether you should testify in your case. If you do choose to testify, we spend a lot of time preparing for that testimony.
  • We will also discuss with you beforehand how to conduct yourself during the trial and what to expect.
  • This is the final stage of a criminal case. It is the hearing where the judge will decide what penalty you shall receive. Both the prosecution and defense get to make a recommendation for the penalty.
  • Penalties can range from a fine and/or probation, to jail or prison time.
  • You have a right of allocution at sentencing, meaning an opportunity to speak directly to the judge.
  • We will discuss with you beforehand the recommendation that you agree to and also give you feedback on what we think is appropriate based upon the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
  • Many judges appreciate having letters submitted in advance of the hearing. That is why we asked you for character letters at the beginning of the case. These letters are important because they help paint a picture of who you really are. Judges also appreciate having people to come support you like family members, friends, or people from the community.