Your Appleton Criminal Case: The Basics

You walk out of the movie theatre on the site of the old Valley Fair Shopping Center, still chatting about the movie, which was the latest Oscar bid to be released. The movie was so captivating that you almost didn't notice that small broken window panel in your car. You then notice that the glove compartment, center console, and trunk contents have been rifled through and everything of value stolen! It's your lucky day because the Appleton police actually manage to nab the guy who stole your stuff. So what will happen to the thief now? Read on to find out.

The Arrest

Most criminal cases begin when someone gets arrested for a crime. In order to properly arrest someone, the police must have a warrant or probable cause to believe they committed a crime. This means that the police must observe or learn about something from a reliable source that would indicate that the person under arrest actually committed the crime.

What happens immediately after the arrest depends on the crime. Most arrestees in Appleton are taken to the Outagamie County Jail and booked. Then, for less serious cases, the arrestee may pay a fine and leave jail. If the case is more severe, a bail amount must be set and the individual must wait for someone to come bail them out of jail. Alternatively, they can wait for the arraignment on the next available court date.

If the person getting arrested is issued a citation, then he likely will not need to go to jail at all. Citations are more commonly known as tickets, and are often given for minor infractions like speeding or jaywalking. The person who received the ticket simply pays the fine, which ends the case. The citation will probably not show up on any major background checks, but may affect car insurance premiums.

Types of Criminal Cases

In Wisconsin, as in other states, criminal cases fall into a number of categories, depending on how severe the punishment for the crime is. These categories are:1) felonies for serious offenses, which carry penalties between a $10,000 fine and/or a three-and-a-half-year sentence and life; and (2) misdemeanors for relatively minor offenses, which carry penalties between a $500 fine and/or a 30 day jail sentence, and a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a nine-month jail sentence.

Some minor misdemeanors may be resolved in just one court appearance in which the defendant admits guilt and pays the fine. However, unlike a citation, that guilty plea can show up in criminal background checks and may affect future job applications. If you have any questions about how a guilty plea will affect other areas of your life, you may wish to consult with a local criminal defense attorney.

Arraignment

The first time most criminal defendants come into the court is for their arraignment, during which the prosecutor reads the charges against the defendant and the defendant has an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial date will be scheduled and both sides begin preparations. If the defendant pleads guilty, the court skips straight to sentencing.

At any point during the trial process, the defendant can attempt to negotiate with the prosecution and work out a plea deal. Defendants who enter plea deals typically plead guilty to the offense in exchange for a lighter punishment than they are likely to get at trial. Sometimes, alternate sentences are available which can lead to a complete dismissal of the case.

Trial

After a defendant enters a not guilty plea, the trial process begins. Full-blown criminal trials are often (but not always) for serious crimes with equally serious punishments. Because the stakes are so high and the details of the process can be confusing, many defendants in serious cases hire a criminal defense attorney. Every criminal defendant has the right to an attorney, so if you cannot afford one, you may wish to can contact the Wisconsin State Public Defender's Office to learn how to get an attorney for a drastically reduced price. Unlike most states, Wisconsin requires defendants who have representation through the public defender's office to pay a small fee. Fees vary based on the complexity of the case and the financial means of the defendant. Although payment plans are available, the fee is much smaller if it is prepaid.

Before the trial begins, both the defendant and the prosecution gather evidence about what happened, including a thorough review of the police reports, arrest records, and witness statements. Each side will probably file pre-trial motions to ensure that evidence obtained unlawfully remains out of the court, and to try and resolve some issues before the trial begins.

Trials for most crimes take place in the Outagamie County Justice Center. Every defendant is entitled to a jury, but may choose to waive the right to jury and allow a judge to decide his case instead. Cases in which a judge decides the facts, known as "bench trials," often take less time and less money to complete, although jury trials may have some advantages. A criminal defense attorney or public defender can give specific advice tailored to each defendant's needs and circumstances.

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