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Misdemeanors Vs. Felonies In Wisconsin

Misdemeanors Vs. Felonies In Wisconsin Explained

Wisconsin state statute is very clear on misdemeanors vs. felonies. Section 939.60 offers this definition: “A crime punishable by imprisonment of 1 year of more in the Wisconsin state prisons is a felony. Every other crime is a misdemeanor.”

The primary differences between misdemeanors and felonies are:

  1. The penalties involved and
  2. Court procedures

Misdemeanor vs. Felony Penalties

Felony and misdemeanor are the two primary classifications of crime in WI. Once classified into one of these two categories, the specific crime is further defined into sub-categories. Felonies are further refined into 9 Classes such as Class A, B, C, etc. all the way through Class I, with Class A felonies carrying the most severe penalties. Misdemeanors have a much smaller range of categorization with only A, B, and C Classes. Again, Class A misdemeanors carry the harshest penalties.

Two key factors differentiate misdemeanors from felonies. The first is if the crime is punishable by jail time of one year or more. If it is, it is a felony. The second factor is whether or not the crime is punishable by incarceration in the Wisconsin State Prison System. If it is, then the crime is a felony. If not, then it is a misdemeanor.

In addition to jail time, all misdemeanors and felonies carry with them monetary fines and sometimes, other restrictions such as loss of a driver’s license. Felonies, in particular, carry harsh penalties such as the forfeiture of second amendment rights, the right to vote, and the ability to hold office or serve on a jury.

Court Procedures

Court procedures differ for misdemeanors vs. felonies. Misdemeanors have fewer steps, typically an initial appearance to set bail and arraignment and a pretrial. After the pretrial, the case may move to a trial, plea or sentencing or it may be referred back to the state for further evidence review.

Felony court procedures are more complicated. The process also begins and an initial appearance and the setting of bond and bail. Arraignment occurs after the preliminary hearing, which is where the state must demonstrate probable cause for the charges. If this is proven, the case then moves forward with the defendant having a chance to waive their right and acknowledge the probable cause or choosing to go to a hearing where the state must show probable cause exists. The state does not have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt at this point, they just have to prove that a felony was probably committed and that the defendant was likely responsible.

Build a Strong Defense With an Experienced Wisconsin Legal Team

There are many factors that go into sentencing including the defendant’s criminal history and the Class of crime, whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor. Early representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney can help reduce the charges against you and the resulting fines and penalties. Don’t wait until you are formally charged with a crime to contact Eisenberg Law Offices. Our Madison criminal defense attorneys can represent you from the start at your initial appearance. This early representation can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of your situation. Call 608-256-8356 as soon as you are arrested to begin building a strong defense.