General Court Terms and Process

How do your Initial Consults and Retainers work? 

At our office we have to evaluate our caseload before we agree to taking on any new clients. We do charge by the hour for our initial consults and during the duration of your case. We do ask for the retainers to be paid in full upfront before we start working on your case. Your retainer is held in a trust account where you are billed out of by the hour. An invoice will be issued to you detailing what was billed out of the trust account regarding the work we are currently doing for your case.

When do I have a right to talk to a lawyer? 

Anytime during a police contact you can contact a lawyer. The best advice generally speaking is "Don't talk to the police without a lawyer." You also have the right to not incriminate yourself. Contacting a lawyer and not speaking to the police is never a bad idea because you are exercising your rights. 

When do the police have to read me my rights?

It is a common misconception that the police have to read you your rights once they arrest you; however, the police can read you your rights anytime before they interrogate you. It is not like in movies or television shows when police officers read people their rights immediately. This is why it is important to contact an attorney and remain silent. 

48 Hour Rule

A defendant must be seen in court within a reasonable time which has been deemed 48 hours for determination of probable cause for the arrest is ruled on. This 48-hour rule does not include Sundays or Legal Holidays. In other words, you should not be held for longer than 48 hours with seeing a judge. 

Degrees of Criminal Offenses

Citation the lowest level of offense. In the state of Wisconsin, a person's first OWI is a citation not a misdemeanor. 

Misdemeanor is a lesser offense than that of a felony. A misdemeanor is punishable by serving no more than a year in jail and a fine of no more than 10,000 dollars. Misdemeanor offenses are broken down further by class which makes the punishments vary per classification and severity. 

Felony the highest level of offense which is punishable up to year or more in prison and a fine of no more than 100,000 dollars. Felonies offenses are broken down further by class which makes the punishments vary per classification and severity.


Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

This is the standard that juries must reach to convict their peers in a criminal trials. Most lawyers compare beyond a reasonable doubt to 100% certainty that a defendant is guilty. Generally speaking jurors should not have any doubt about the defendants guilt to convict him or her in a criminal case due to the potential penalties. 

Preponderance of Evidence 

This is the standard that juries must reach to convict in a civil trial. Most layers compare preponderance of evidence to be over 50% sure that the claim is true. Generally speaking if jurors find that their is merit to the claim based on exhibits, testimony, or anything other source of evidence provided by the victim the jurors can issue damages. 

Major Court Hearings

Initial Appearance this generally the defendants first court appearance hopefully with their attorney present. At this hearing, you can either ask for a public defender, hire a private attorney, or represent yourself. This hearing is normally where bond or bail is decided as well. 

Preliminary Hearing is a hearing for felony cases only. During this court hearing, the state must show probable cause that a felony was committed an disclose evidence. You public defender or private attorney can question the witness or witnesses presented by the state and possibly argue if the evidence amounts to probable cause standards. 

Status Conference is a hearing where both sides meet with the judge to discuss with the status of a case. The judge at this hearing wants to know if any progress was made to reach an agreement. If an agreement is not reached at a status conference then the case will continue to the next steps within the process. 

Pretrial Conferences are meetings between the states attorney and your defense attorney to discuss the charges in hopes to resolve the case. This is possibly where plea agreement can be reached otherwise trial will proceed as planned. 

Types of Plea Agreements

Nolo Contendere - better known as a no contest plea meaning the defendant is not admitting or denying guilt for his or her charges. This plea can not be used against the defendant in future actions. 

Guilty Plea - a defendant agrees to admit his or her guilt in exchange for a lesser charge(s) or lesser sentence. Plea bargaining is how the majority of cases are resolved today.

Bench Trial v. Jury Trial?

A bench trial is when the judge or magistrate hears the facts and issues of law pertaining to your case. The judge makes the ruling of guilty or not guilty solely on his or her own. Whereas a jury trial is a trial where 8 to 12 randomly selected peers are brought forth to hear the facts and issues of law in regard to your case. The jury will deliberate after closing statements and issue a verdict which is the ruling in the case.

Civil vs. Criminal Law

Civil law resolves disagreements between organizations, persons, or two parties where compensation is awarded to one party if a settlement or verdict is reached. Criminal law is a system where rules are defined and breaking them is a crime. Those crimes have different punishments and defendants are either found guilty or innocent.

Trial Process

The first part of a trial is the opening statements. Both sides get to make an opening statement to set the scene of their case. The second part of the trial consist of presenting witness testimony, evidence, and cross examination for both sides. The third major part of a trial is the closing arguments which are made by both sides in an attempt to persuade the jury to side with their argument. Next the judge gives the jury their jury instructions regarding the charges of the case. Finally the jury goes back to the jury room to deliberate where a verdict is reached or the jury is deadlocked. 

Family or Civil Parties in Cases

Petitioner is the person, party, or company that started the case with the court by filing for divorce or suit.

Respondent is the person, party, or company that responds to the paperwork that was filed by the petitioner.


This stage is only reached if a defendant pleads guilty or is convicted at trial. At this hearing, character witnesses for the defendant may be called and the defendant can give a statement as well if he or she chooses to do so. These are attempts to show the defendant’s character and hopefully the judge will take that into consideration when sentencing the defendant.