Below are general questions asked when a person may be facing criminal prosecution. The answers provided are not case specific and their accuracy depends on the circumstances of the case. Each person, case, and set of circumstances is different, as such, the answers should be taken as a guide not a direct answer to your questions. If you believe you or a loved one is, or will be, facing criminal charges you should consult an attorney.
Attorney Gaskill is here for you if you have any questions, either give him a call or use the contact form.
The following information should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Legal advice can only be given based on specific case details, therefore, the answers below are not legal advice and no attorney client relationship has been entered into.
Q: Do I need an attorney?
There is a common saying in the legal profession: “The lawyer who represents himself, has a fool for a client.” There is another similar saying: “The man who represents himself, has a fool for a lawyer.” If a lawyer should not represent himself, neither should you. If for no other reason, most people cannot distance themselves from their case, to see the bigger picture that is necessary in court.
So, in short, the answer is yes. Criminal procedures are a complicated process and someone who has not had the proper training should not attempt to represent themselves or go it alone in such a situation. The District Attorney and police are not there for your protection, they are there to get a conviction. There is a good reason a case is called State of Wisconsin v. John Doe, you are on opposite sides. Just as the police have a prosecutor on their side trying to turn an arrest into a conviction, you should have a lawyer on your side not only to keep the government honest, but also to FIGHT on your behalf.
Q: What are the next steps in the legal process?
The next step in the legal process depends on what charges you are facing and where you are in the complicated process. If you are charged with a Misdemeanor, in Milwaukee County, you will have an Initial Appearance followed by a Scheduling/Pretrial Conference. In a Misdemeanor case you or your lawyer will receive discovery at either the Initial Appearance or the Scheduling/Pretrial Conference. This is followed by a resolution, motion dates, or a trial that will be set on the court calendar.
The process for a Felony is similar, however, there are additional steps. Following an Initial Appearance, a Preliminary Hearing will take place, followed immediately by an Arraignment. In a Felony case a prosecutor will not turn over discovery until after the Preliminary Hearing. After the Preliminary Hearing, a Scheduling/Pretrial Conference is set on the court calendar.
What you can expect at each individual step depends on your background, the prosecutor, the judge, and the charges involved in the case.
Q: What are the chances of your charges being reduced?
The prosecution has the final decision as to whether your charges are reduced. Your attorney is there to influence the prosecution to reduce your charges. The State, in a criminal case, is the charging body. Because the State brings the initial charge, it is up to them to amend or reduce your charges.
The chances of your charges being reduced depends on external factors such as: the specific prosecutor assigned to your case, the charge you are facing, and your criminal background; along with a number of things you can control: your employment, education, behavioral classes, and volunteer work. This is not an exhaustive list, but it does include many factors a prosecutor will consider.
Additionally, from the State’s point of view, getting charges reduced requires a trade off. The State reduces the charges in exchange for something; the more you have to bargain with the more likely your charges will be reduced.
Q: Am I looking at jail time? If so, how long?
Jail time is dependent on first being convicted. If you are not convicted, you will not have jail time. If you are convicted, there are many factors that determine the length of a sentence, but primarily the judge balances your membership in society against your threat to society.
1) Judges look at what kind of member of society you are; criminal background, employment history, schooling, volunteer work, behavioral classes, intent, taking responsibility for your actions, and remorse. 2) That set of factors is weighed against your threat to society; the type of crime (i.e. violent or drug related), the amount of harm your crime inflicts on victims and society as a whole, the likelihood of rehabilitation, and any negative impacts your removal from society might have.
After weighing these factors the judge will determine what is in the best interests of society and the individual. Ultimately, a sentence is up to the judge not your lawyer, the prosecution, a jury, or any plea bargain you have entered into.
Q: Are there any alternative programs to pleading guilty or going to jail?
There are alternative programs to both pleading guilty and going to jail. A deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) is something that can, at the completion of the program, dismiss or reduce charges. Other possibilities include: probation (which may not require upfront jail time), community service, restitution, fines, classes, or a combination thereof.