If you have been charged with committing a crime in the State of Wisconsin, your first court appearance will be an initial appearance hearing. In some courts, this initial proceeding is referred to as an arraignment proceeding.


When you come before the court for an initial appearance hearing, there are several things that will occur. First, the court will make sure that you fully understand the criminal charges that you are facing. The court will also make sure you are aware of the potential penalties that you might face if you are ultimately convicted of the criminal offense. If you are unclear as to what the criminal charge is, you can ask the court to read the charge aloud to you.

Also, at the initial appearance hearing, some people will receive their criminal charge papers, including the criminal summons and complaint. At other times, the complaint and the criminal summons will come in the mail at some point prior to the initial appearance hearing.

If you have been charged with a crime – regardless of whether the charge is a misdemeanor charge or a felony charge – it is important that you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side representing you at every stage of the proceedings – including at the initial appearance hearing.

The experienced Wisconsin criminal defense lawyers at Hogan Eickhoff can represent you at your scheduled initial appearance hearing and at all other legal proceedings that occur throughout your criminal case. Our legal team will work hard to help you attain the best possible result in your case, whether that be through negotiating a favorable plea deal with the prosecution or taking your case all the way to a jury or bench trial. Give us a call today to learn more about how we can assist you throughout your criminal court proceedings.

Entering a Plea at the Initial Appearance Hearing

The initial appearance hearing – or the arraignment, as it is sometimes called – is the proceeding where the accused formally enters a plea of either guilty or not guilty. At this juncture, most criminal defendants will be entering a plea of ‘not guilty,’ although that may later change as the case progresses (i.e., if the defendant later decides to accept a plea deal that is presented by the prosecuting attorney).

By entering a plea of ‘not guilty’ at the initial appearance hearing, the accused will buy himself or herself some time to take a look at the evidence against him or her, including police reports and witness statements. After reviewing this evidence, the accused can decide whether or not he or she can raise a favorable defense to the criminal charge. Your attorney can also help you determine the likelihood that a particular defense may succeed if the case goes to trial. Remember, if you wish to change your ‘not guilty’ plea at a later time, that is possible.

Filing a Criminal Complaint

It is at the initial appearance hearing when the prosecution files formal criminal charges against the accused for the crime(s) that he or she is accused of committing. The criminal complaint is entered by the prosecuting attorney who is assigned to your case and is a formal document which will contain all of the following information:

  • Your name, address, and information about your physical description
  • The identity of the person who is charging you
  • The various criminal offenses (including the counts associated with those offenses) that you are being charged with
  • Some of the details regarding the crimes with which you are being charged
  • Statement of probable cause

Filing a Statement of Probable Cause

At the initial appearance hearing, the Office of the District Attorney may enter a Statement of Probable Cause, which is listed underneath the various counts listed on the criminal complaint. It is important to keep in mind that the probable cause statement is not meant to serve as evidence in your criminal case. Moreover, its purpose is not to assist you or your case in any way, such as by listing defenses or telling your version of events that led up to your criminal charge. Instead, the statement of probable cause is prepared by the District Attorney’s Office in the county where you are being charged. The purpose of the statement is to state the probable-cause basis for charging you with the listed offense(s).

If you are facing one or more felony charges, you may not receive the evidence pending against you until you actually attend the preliminary hearing in your case. However, if you are facing a misdemeanor charge at your hearing, you may receive the evidence, such as the police report, at your initial appearance.

Setting Your Bail

At an initial appearance hearing, the court will decide whether or not bail is going to be set in your case. The purpose of setting bail is to reasonably assure that you will appear in court at the next proceeding. Individuals who reside locally – or who do not have serious charges pending against them – may receive a lower bail than if that were not the case.

In some instances, a different (later) court may be in a position to review the bail that was set at your initial appearance hearing, and if appropriate, modify that bail. If you did not previously post bail (such as at the police station, in order for you to be able to leave), the court may set a cash bail or a signature bond in order for you to be released from the detention center. A cash bail allows you to leave the detention facility if you (or someone acting on your behalf) post the bail that has been set. A signature bond – or a release on your own personal recognizance – allows you to leave the detention facility or courthouse without having to post any money.

Speak with a Wisconsin Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

The skilled attorneys at Hogan Eickhoff can assist you during your initial appearance hearing and throughout your entire criminal case. For a free case evaluation and legal consultation with an experienced Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer, please call us at (920) 450-9800 or contact us online today!