Regardless of what crime you are charged with, a felony is an extremely serious matter. If you are convicted of a felony, you are likely facing prison time, fines, and penalties that will punish you well after you have served your time.
To have a chance to avoid these serious felony consequences, you need to take the proper steps from stage one of your case. Here are the steps you need to take if you are facing a felony charge in Wisconsin:
1. EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT
You have probably heard the words, “You have the right to remain silent…” in dozens of movies and TV shows about cops and the criminal justice system. But your right to remain silent is not something that is just made up because it sounds good on TV.
The Fifth Amendment gives all of us the right to refuse to incriminate ourselves in a criminal case. The easiest way to avoid incriminating yourself is to remain silent.
If you find yourself in custody, refuse to answer any questions and politely insist that you will not answer anything without a lawyer present. You do not need to act hostile toward the police in order to exercise your right to remain silent. Politely tell police that you are choosing to exercise your Fifth Amendment rights.
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2. REMAIN CALM AND POLITE
This might be one of the most difficult ideas to remember, especially if you believe you are innocent or do not know why the police are questioning you. Being questioned by authorities, who are often aggressive, can be frustrating and scary.
However, even if you believe you have been wrongfully arrested and that your rights have been violated, do not resist arrest or attempt to argue with police officers. Resisting will make you appear guilty and could result in additional charges being filed against you.
3. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY IMMEDIATELY
Call a lawyer if you are charged with a felony.
The single most crucial step in the process of defending yourself against a felony charge is to contact an attorney. Every moment you spend in custody without an attorney fighting for you hurts your case.
It is extremely important for you to hire a criminal defense attorney the moment you are accused of a crime.
The prosecutor will know all the technicalities of the law that you may not know, and most of all, they will know how to sell you on agreeing to a plea bargain that will seem like your best option. Having your own attorney will even the playing field, and allow you to avoid taking what seems like an easy deal when it is likely not in your best interest.
Additionally, your attorney can help you understand and exercise your rights so that you do not set yourself up for an easy conviction. The police and prosecutors will be working against you; you need someone with experience on your side fighting for your freedom.
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4. UNDERSTAND THE CHARGES YOU ARE FACING
Most people do not realize the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony. That means they often do not understand the severity of the crime they are accused of and the harsh potential consequences they face if convicted of a felony.
Generally, a misdemeanor is punished by time in county jail, a fine or both. A felony carries more severe potential penalties, including a prison or county jail sentence. In addition, you may have to pay restitution to the victim of the crime.
You could also lose certain rights once you are released from prison if you are convicted of a felony. For instance, you might lose your right to vote and your right to own a firearm. You might be denied the chance to serve in the military or be denied a professional license.
It is important that you understand the specific felony charges that you face and the severity of those charges.
6. BE HONEST WITH YOUR ATTORNEY
Your criminal defense attorney will need to know the most accurate information about your case in order to properly prepare for the case and provide with you with the most adequate defense. Therefore, it is imperative that you are 100% honest with your lawyer throughout the entire felony criminal process.
Many people are afraid to speak the truth to their lawyer, which is why you should know that any information you share with your attorney is confidential. Your relationship is protected by attorney-client privilege. If your lawyer chooses to share the details of your case, he or she could face discipline from the state bar, which includes the possibility of losing his or her license to practice law.
Give your attorney an honest, detailed account of what happened. The more accurate information the attorney has, the better prepared he or she will be to give you the best defense possible.
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7. BE CAUTIOUS WHEN SPEAKING TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Unless you are speaking to your spouse, for which Wisconsin offers certain protections, try to only talk to your lawyer about your felony case. Unlike conversations with your attorney, those you have with your family and friends are not protected by confidentiality rules. Anything you tell them can potentially be used against you. As such, the best course of action is always to tell your friends and family that you cannot talk about your case until it is finished. This will help you avoid any potential damage to your case.
8. WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU REMEMBER
One of the most imperative things we tell our clients who are accused of felonies to do is to write down the facts of the case immediately.
You will be better able to give your attorney accurate information if it is fresh in your mind, and the best way to ensure that it stays fresh is to write down what you remember about the events surrounding your arrest as soon as possible. Make sure to include where you were and who you were with when the crime took place.
From the moment you are arrested, the prosecution will begin documenting everything it can about you in order to build a case to convict you. That is why you should prepare the most accurate information as possible.
9. MAKE A LIST OF WITNESSES
Around the same time that you write down your statement of the events, you should also write down the names and contact information of any person who could possibly testify favorably on your behalf.
Start by writing down the name of any witnesses who may have seen the alleged crime take place. Your lawyer will be able to follow up with these witnesses to see if their version of the events matches up with yours.
Additionally, you will also want to collect the name and information of anyone who could testify to your good character. These types of witnesses could help your felony attorney show that you are not the type of person who would commit a felony crime.
10. ATTEND ALL COURT PROCEEDINGS
With a few exceptions, a person charged with a misdemeanor may elect to have their attorney make any appearance in court in their place, meaning the defendant can choose not to appear in court. That is not the case if you have been charged with a felony.
California Penal Code section 977(b) requires that for any felony, the defendant must be present for the arraignment, the time of plea, preliminary hearings, any portion of the trial where evidence is presented to the judge or jury, and the imposition of the sentence. The law places the burden on you as the defendant to know when these events are happening, and to be present for them.
Work with your criminal defense lawyer to create a calendar of the hearings involved in your case. Make sure you set yourself reminders and alarms so that you do not miss these court dates. Failure to appear in court as scheduled not only makes you look bad for your felony case, but it also could result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A FELONY, CALL THE ATTORNEYS AT PARKS LAW OFFICES.
A felony charge is a serious accusation with potentially life-changing consequences. If you or someone you care about has been charged with a felony, you will need an experienced and insightful attorney to help you in your case. At Parks Law Offices, our attorneys have been successfully defending clients facing misdemeanor and felony charges for more than 40 years. We’ve helped hundreds of clients in their time of legal need. Let us help you, too.
Click here to schedule a free initial consultation, or call us at 920.933.6300.