Misdemeanors vs Felonies: What’s the Difference in Wisconsin Law?
What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony in Wisconsin? The differences boil down to the potential penalties and the procedures in court. Anytime someone is charged with a crime, whether a misdemeanor or felony, incarceration is always a possibility.
Jail or Prison Time
The type of incarceration depends on the type of crime. If you are facing a misdemeanor charge, the maximum penalties will involve jail time. If you are facing felony charges, the maximum penalties will involve jail time, too.
The amount of jail time is dependent upon the severity of the crime and what class it falls under. Misdemeanors are split up into Class A, Class B, or unclassified. Felonies range from Class A to Class I, with Class A being the most severe. State statutes determine whether a crime falls under a misdemeanor or felony classification.
Misdemeanor and Felony Court Procedures
As to procedures through the court system, felonies and misdemeanors follow different tracks. Traditionally a misdemeanor will have an initial appearance to set bail and arraignment; the pretrial to ensure both parties have everything they need and can negotiate; and then a motion hearing. Depending on the results of the motion hearing, the case can continue forward to trial or plea and sentencing, or it can be set aside for the state to evaluate the strength of evidence still left in the case.
A felony, however, requires more steps. The initial appearance is set so the court can set bail and bond conditions. The arraignment, however, is saved until after the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing ensures extra safeguards for those charged with felonies. At the preliminary hearing, the state must show probable cause for the offense charged before the case can proceed forward. A defendant can either waive their right and acknowledge there is probable cause OR have a hearing where the state has the burden to show probable cause (a felony was probably committed and the defendant probably was the one who committed the offense). This is not the moment when the state has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt; the burden here is much lower.
You Are Not Guilty Until You Are Convicted
Award-Winning Defense Attorneys for Misdemeanors and Felonies in Wisconsin
With years of experience as prosecutors, the criminal defense lawyers at Grieve Law know exactly how the other side thinks. Start with a free consultation, and if you stick with us, we’ll make sure you get the best possible outcome in your misdemeanor or felony case.