The Misdemeanor Process

The Misdemeanor Process, under Wisconsin Criminal laws, is initiated by the filing of a charging document called the criminal complaint. The accused may be in custody or may be summoned to an out-of- custody court to appear in front of a magistrate or court commissioner. At this Initial Appearance, the accused is furnished with a copy of a complaint. The magistrate reviews the complaint for a determination of probable cause, and if probable cause is found, bail is set, and the defendant enters a plea of Not Guilty.

The main difference in the process between Wisconsin Felonies and Misdemeanors is that there is no preliminary hearing in a Misdemeanor case.

Setting Bail in a Wisconsin Misdemeanor case

At the initial appearance, the magistrate will set bail. It is not uncommon in Misdemeanor cases for the magistrate to allow the accused to be released on his or her own personal recognizance. In this case, the accused is allowed to sign an agreement stating that he or she promises to appear at all future court appearances. In some cases, additional restrictions are included such as an order that the accused have “no contact” with a victim or witness in the case. Please see the section Defending Your Case for a general discussion of further procedures which are applicable to Misdemeanors in Wisconsin.

Sentencing issues unique to Misdemeanor cases

Misdemeanor criminal matters in Wisconsin carry maximum jail terms of one year or less. Probation is a very common sentence for those convicted of Misdemeanor offenses in Wisconsin. In many cases, even if a defendant is sentenced to jail in a Wisconsin Misdemeanor criminal case, he or she is allowed to serve the sentence with work-release privileges or, even home detention. Fees are assessed against an individual allowed to serve his or her sentence with these privileges. Fees are also assessed against those who are sentenced to probation.

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