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What Happens After You're Charged with a Crime in Wisconsin

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Being charged with a crime is a terrifying ordeal, whether it's a simple traffic ticket or a serious felony assault. It's doubly scary if you have never faced criminal charges before. The first thing on your mind will be "what happens next?"

This article will walk through the Wisconsin legal process following a criminal charge. We will outline everything from initial court hearings to sentencing.

  1. Initial Appearance. The initial appearance is the first time you are required to appear in court for your charge. This is where you will plead guilty or not guilty, schedule any necessary future court dates, and set the conditions of bail.
  2. Preliminary Hearing. At the preliminary hearing the court decides whether or not there is enough probable cause to believe that the crime in question has been committed. These hearings only apply to felony charges, and must be held within 10 or 20 days (depending on whether the defendant is in custody or not).
  3. Pre-Trial. Following initial appearances and preliminary hearings, a pre-trial conference will be held between the prosecution and the defense. At this conference, the defense attorney will negotiate a resolution with the state. The defendant can then accept the plea and be finished, or decline the plea and proceed to trial.
  4. Trial. If the defense and prosecution fail to reach a satisfactory plea, the case will go to trial. Cases are either tried by a jury or by the court alone.
  5. Sentencing. Sometimes sentencing is announced immediately at the close of a trial. Other times, a separate hearing is set for sentencing. Either way, this is where the jury or court's verdict will be read.

That is the Wisconsin criminal trial process in a nutshell. Obviously there are many intricacies not mentioned above. Because of this it is always good advice to talk to a defense lawyer when you are facing criminal charges. 

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