Criminal Law

Misdemeanors and Felonies

Misdemeanor offenses are less serious criminal offenses whereby the maximum penalty can result in incarceration for up to one year in jail. In most instances, if a defendant is sentenced to jail, he or she is entitled to Huber privileges, which allow the defendant to leave the jail on a daily basis for up to 12 hours a day for work, child care or other purposes.  The defendant may also be entitled to electronic monitoring if he or she is given a jail sentence, which means a bracelet is placed on the defendant so he/she can serve time outside of the county jail under the monitoring of this electronic bracelet.  In most jail sentences, a defendant is entitled to “good time,” which means one quarter of the mandated sentence is eliminated, as long as he or she demonstrates good behavior while in jail.

Felonies are more serious offenses whereby the maximum penalty can result in incarceration for more than one year in prison.  If a defendant receives a sentence of more than one year of incarceration, this incarceration occurs in a prison, as opposed to a jail.  In prison, a defendant is not afforded Huber rights, good time or the right to electronic monitoring.  Felony convictions also carry the loss of certain privileges, such as the right to own or possess any firearm and the right to vote in any election.  While the right to vote is one that can generally be restored, the right to own or possess a firearm is lost permanently upon a felony conviction.  Certain felony convictions can also require the defendant to submit to DNA testing so that his or her DNA is stored in the Wisconsin State Crime Lab’s database.  The defendant is responsible for the cost of such testing.  Finally, felony convictions can also interfere with a defendant’s ability to enter or to maintain a position in the military. 

For more information or to schedule a consultation please call us at 920 231-5050 or click here.

Operating Under the Influence (OWI) and Criminal Traffic Matters

A first-offense Operating Under the Influence, also known as OWI, is not a criminal offense. However, a second or subsequent OWI is regarded as a criminal offense and requires mandatory jail time, as well as a mandatory loss of one’s driving privileges.  Jail time is determined based upon whether you were involved in an accident, as well as the level of alcohol in your blood (BAC) at the time of your arrest.  In Wisconsin, an OWI fifth offense is regarded as a felony, as are some OWI offenses involving minor passengers.  The attorneys at Basiliere, Thompson, Bissett, Castonia & Swardenski, LLP are experienced in representing individuals charged with drunk driving and can make valuable recommendations to their clients about the best way to proceed with their case.  Our recommendation may include participation in Winnebago County Safe Streets Treatment Options Program (a.k.a. SSTOP).  This diversion program can be explained in greater detail by your attorney.Further traffic matters such as Operating Without a Valid Driver’s License, or Operating With a Revoked License are also regarded as criminal offenses.

For more information or to schedule a consultation please call us at 920 231-5050 or click here.

Criminal Procedures

Criminal procedures vary between misdemeanors and felonies, with a defendant afforded additional hearings when charged with a felony. Generally speaking, the process for a criminal case involves the following:

a.  Arraignment: This is a court date whereby the judge reads formal charges to the defendant and the defendant enters a plea to the charge(s).  The court normally addresses the issue of bond at this hearing if it has not been addressed previously.
b.  Pre-Trial Conference: This is a date the court sets whereby the district attorney is required to make an offer to the defendant to resolve the case short of a jury trial.
c.  Jury Trial: This is the third step of the Criminal process. Under both the federal and state constitutions, a defendant who is charged with a criminal offense is entitled to a jury trial where 12 members of the community listen to the case and must render a unanimous decision as to the defendant’s guilt or innocence.  The decision to proceed to a jury trial is made with counsel after review of the state’s evidence against the defendant, and is further weighed against the offer made to the defendant by the District Attorney’s Office to resolve the case short of trial.  While the jury determines the defendant’s guilt or innocence, the judge makes the decision on what the defendant’s punishment or sentence will be if the defendant is found guilty at trial.
d.  Sentencing: This is the fourth step of the criminal process. If a defendant is found guilty at trial or decides to accept a plea, the matter is scheduled for a sentencing hearing before the judge.  At sentencing, the judge considers the seriousness of the offense, whether the defendant poses a threat to the public, the character of the defendant, the rehabilitative needs of the defendant, and the necessity of punishment for the crime committed.  It is within the sole discretion of the judge to determine what a defendant’s sentence will be.

For more information or to schedule a consultation please call us at 920 231-5050 or click here.

Juvenile Offenses

If someone under the age of 17 is charged with a criminal offense, in most instances, they are charged with a juvenile offense. A juvenile’s charges and court proceedings are confidential, and with only a few exceptions, a juvenile’s record is sealed upon the juvenile reaching the age of 17. Juveniles may be charged with both misdemeanors and felonies.

For more information or to schedule a consultation please call us at 920 231-5050 or click here.