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Basics of the Criminal Process for a Felony

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Wisconsin defense attorney, Wisconsin criminal lawyer, criminal justice systemIf you have been charged with a felony in Wisconsin, you will find yourself in the middle of a complex criminal justice system. The better you understand what you are facing the better decisions you can make and the more help you will be to your lawyer


Criminal cases start out with some type of investigation. The investigation may be triggered by a 911 call or by non-emergency reports of wrongdoing to law enforcement personnel. Initially, you may not even know you are being investigated. Often, law enforcement personnel will want to question you or search your property as part of their investigation. If law enforcement personnel are interested in speaking with you, it is in your best interest to speak with a lawyer first. Arrest The investigation may take a few hours, or a few weeks or months. Once law enforcement personnel believe they have probable cause that you have committed a crime, you will be arrested. Sometimes after an arrest, law enforcement personnel want to speak with you about your case. You  have the right to ask for a lawyer and otherwise should remain silent. Bail Hearing Typically, the first hearing will be a bail hearing. You will be brought before a judge and the judge will set the bail amount. If you make bail and follow the conditions of your release agreement, you can remain out of custody as your case moves forward. Preliminary Hearing In a felony case, you have a right to a preliminary hearing you can waive that right if you choose. At a preliminary hearing, both the prosecutor and the defense lawyers will present part of their case to the judge. The judge must decide if there is probable cause to believe you committed the crime for the case to move forward. Arraignment After a preliminary hearing, you will be arraigned. This means that formal charges are presented and a plea of guilty or not guilty will be entered. If a plea of guilty is entered, a trial date will be set.

Pretrial Hearings

Between the arraignment and the trial there may be several hearings. These pretrial hearings may cover everything from challenges to evidence to requests to limit discussion of certain issues at trial. If you are out on bail, the time between the arraignment and the trial will typically be longer than if you remain in custody.


You may have other chances to change your plea from not guilty to guilty. But, it may be in your best interest to have a trial. You have a right to a jury trial. A jury trial will usually last more than one day. The more complicated the case, the longer the trial will be. At the end of the trial the jury will deliberate and reach a verdict. If you are found not guilty your case is over. If you are found guilty you may be taken back into custody. The judge will then set a date for a sentencing hearing.

If you have arrested or accused of a crime, you need to speak with a tough and knowledgeable Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer. Do not speak to anyone about your case until you have consulted with a lawyer. Call the law firm of Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP at 414-271-1440 today to setup your consultation.


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