Q. Do I need an attorney?

A. There is no easy answer to this question.  However, you can contact us today for a free consultation.  We’ll help you determine if an attorney is something you should have at this point.  As a general rule, if you are charged with a crime, you will benefit greatly from having an attorney.  We often hear from people that they feel their case is hopeless so they don’t think it is worth hiring an attorney.  That simply is not true.  First of all, our firm may be able to spot issues with your case for which you would never even know to look.  In addition, even if your charges are very minor or it seems like it’s an open and shut case, chances are good that an attorney can get you a better outcome than you could get on your own. 

Q. Do I need a local attorney?

A. You need an attorney who is licensed to practice in the state where you are facing charges, but you do not need to hire a Milwaukee County attorney just because your charges are in Milwaukee County.  We can represent you in any county in the state in either circuit or municipal court.  We also handle cases in Wisconsin’s federal courts.  Sometimes there is a benefit to hiring a local attorney because he or she may know the other parties involved better.  At the same time, that can also be a disadvantage at times because an attorney who practices almost exclusively in one area can become too familiar with the local players and may be afraid to alienate those people by being an aggressive advocate for you.  Our firm practices in a diverse enough section of the state that we are familiar with the players throughout Wisconsin, without being beholden to any of them for our success.

Q. What will an attorney do for me?

A. Obviously, attorneys will represent you in the courtroom.  That’s precisely what you expect; however, our firm will do a whole lot more for you too.  We will be able to discuss your case with you and to identify possible defenses and issues with the prosecution’s case.  Our firm will ensure that you receive discovery materials, which include the police reports and other evidence the prosecutor plans to use against you.  This will give us both a better idea of what you are up against and how to best combat the allegations you are facing.  When appropriate, we can file motions on your behalf that could result in your case being dismissed or key evidence being kept out.  Equally important, we’ll be available to answer your questions and guide you through the process.  We understand that most of our clients are not very familiar with the court system or what to expect.  So, we’ll be there to help you every step of the way.

Q. How much does an attorney cost?

A. That depends on a number of factors.  We pride ourselves on being an affordable option.  Our cost depends on the specifics of your case, including the charges you are facing, where the case is pending, and at what stage the proceedings are.  Please contact us to talk about your case and specific pricing information.  We genuinely want you to find an attorney who will do a good job for you and that you can afford.  If we aren’t an affordable option for you, we’ll try to put you in touch with someone who is.

Q. How can I pay your fee?

A. Cash is obviously perfectly acceptable, although we also accept checks, money orders, and credit cards.  Because we realize that our fees for certain cases can be hard to pay all at once, we also permit clients to pay half of the total amount up front and make monthly payments on the remaining balance.  You can contact us to learn more about payment options.

Q. I’ve never been in trouble before, what should I expect the process to be like?

A. That really depends on what kind of charges you are facing and where your case is being tried.  As a general rule both criminal and traffic cases progress through a number of stages: initial appearance(s), pretrial negotiations, and resolution or litigation.  During the initial appearance(s) phase, your not guilty plea will be entered and in criminal and matters bond conditions (i.e. the conditions of your release while your case is pending) will be addressed.  In all felony cases, this stage will actually be broken up into at least a couple of hearings.  In certain counties, this process might be split up into more than one appearance even for misdemeanors. 

During the pretrial negotiations stage, we will be able to obtain information about your case, see the other side’s evidence, and negotiate a possible settlement.  It will be up to you whether or not to accept the offer being made by the other side.  During the final phase, your case will either be resolved on terms we negotiated with the prosecutor or you may decide you want to litigate your case further at a motion hearing, trial, or both.  The choice is ultimately yours, but you will be able to rely on our expertise to make sure that you are making an informed decision.

Q. How long will my case take?

A. Again, this depends on the type of charge(s) you are facing, but even more so on what jurisdiction your case is in.  Some courts move cases along very quickly and others move much slower.  You may have other things going on in your life that you need to schedule around, so you might want to resolve things more quickly or delay resolution until a better time.  The court ultimately makes the scheduling decisions in your case, but we will try to work with the court to accommodate your needs.

Q. Will I have to go to court?

A. In criminal cases, you will have to attend almost every court hearing.  One exception is initial appearances in misdemeanor cases, which can normally be handled by us alone so long as we have a signed authorization from you permitting us to act on your behalf.  In traffic cases, you will rarely, if ever, have to be in court.  Traffic cases are civil and our state constitution guarantees the right of parties in civil cases to appear by their attorneys.  That means the court considers you to be there, so long as we are there for you.  This is one of the major benefits to hiring an attorney in a traffic case because it keeps you from having to miss other obligations like work to be at a court appearance.  Occasionally, there are certain hearings that we might want you to attend or there may be local court rules that require you to be there.  Once you hire us, we’ll let you know about any court appearances at which you would need to be.

Q. Do I get to see the evidence against me?

A. Yes, you will be able to see it.  Using both the discovery process and public records laws, we’ll get the evidence that could be used against you.  You’ll also have the chance to review it too.  This is a big help because it gives us a chance to look for inconsistencies and holes in the case against you.  Our use of the public records laws also means that we will often seek out evidence that might not be provided by the prosecutor.  This not only sets us apart from some other criminal defense firms, but it also means we’ll have a more complete picture of what you are facing.

Q. What is the difference between a forfeiture, a misdemeanor, and a felony?

A. A forfeiture is not a criminal offense, and the worst penalty you can face would be to pay a certain amount of money.  Examples of common forfeitures include traffic tickets, citations for municipal ordinance violations, and first offense operating while under the influence cases.  As for criminal charges, they are divided into two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies.  Misdemeanors are less serious criminal charges, such as disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property.  Misdemeanors are organized into different lettered classes, with class A being the most serious.  The maximum sentence for a misdemeanor cannot exceed a year in jail.  Felonies are the most serious criminal charges, such as burglary, sexual assault, and homicide.  Like misdemeanors they are organized into different classes, with class A felonies being the most serious.  A charge is considered felony as long as it can result in a sentence of one or more years in prison.

Q. Will I have to serve time?

A. That depends on the type of charge you are facing and the specific circumstances surrounding the case, including your background.  You may want to refer to the previous answer if you are not sure you understand the difference between the various types of charges.  You cannot be sentenced to jail for a forfeiture case.  On a misdemeanor, jail is a possibility, but many of the misdemeanor cases we handle are resolved in a manner that allows our clients to avoid any jail time.  If you are charged with a felony, instead of a misdemeanor, you are more likely to have to serve some time in either jail or prison.  However, it is still possible for you to avoid time in custody in certain circumstances.  In second or subsequent operating while under the influence cases, state law mandates both a minimum and maximum period or confinement.  This means that if you are convicted of such a charge, you will have to serve at least some time, although the amount of time you are likely to face can often be reduced with our help.  If you want more information about the specific penalties for operating while under the influence charges, you may read our website’s specific section on those types of charges (4.0).

Q. What is the difference between jail and prison?

A. Jails are local institutions run by county governments.  Defendants who remain in custody while their cases are pending spend that time in the county jail.  Short terms of confinement and time served as a condition of probation will also be served in the county jail.  Prisons are run by the state or federal government.  Defendants sentenced to prison for state charges will serve their time in one of the many state institutions throughout the state.  Defendants sentenced to prison for federal charges will serve their time in a federal institution, often outside of Wisconsin.

Q. Will I still be able to drive if I am arrested for impaired driving?

A. If you are arrested for operating while under the influence and a test of your breath or blood reveals that you had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or above, the Department of Transportation will most likely administratively suspend your license for six months.  If you are convicted of operating while under the influence (OWI) or operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC), you will also face a revocation of your license that can range from six to thirty-six months.  The good news is that even if your license is suspended or revoked, you may be eligible for an occupational license that would permit you to drive for limited purposes like going to work or school.  If you want more information about the specific penalties for operating while under the influence charges, you can read our website’s specific section on those types of charges.  Also, if you currently have a pending case and you’re looking to hire an attorney, please feel free to contact us and we can help determine what your license status is and how we can best help you to keep driving legally.