In Wisconsin, a felony is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment in a state prison. It is a far more serious charge than a misdemeanor, which may be punished by up to a year in county prison. Felonies involve more serious crimes. These crimes could be violent in nature or more serious versions of crimes that may otherwise be misdemeanors. For example, possession of narcotics and theft charges could rise to felonies when they exceed a certain amount of drugs or monetary value, respectively.
There Are Different Degrees of Felonies in Wisconsin
Wisconsin law assigns categories to each type of felony based on the severity. There are nine different classifications of felonies that have varying maximum terms of imprisonment and associated fines. At the low end of the spectrum, a Class H felony (examples include theft and resisting arrest with bodily harm to the officer) is punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. At the other end, a Class A felony (first-degree intentional homicide or first-degree sexual assault of a person under the age of 13) is punishable by a guaranteed life sentence in prison.
Examples of Felonies and Their Potential Punishments
Here are some examples of common types of felonies in Wisconsin and how they are charged:
- A hit-and-run accident that involves a fatality is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
- Aggravated battery causing great bodily harm intentionally is a Class E felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- Theft of property worth over $10,000 is a Class G felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison.
- Possession of 200 g. to 1 kg of marijuana with intent to sell is a Class H felony, punishable by up to eight years in prison.
The judge will have discretion in determining the sentence. Some Wisconsin felonies come with minimum jail sentences. The prosecutor will make a sentencing recommendation that the judge will consider. You also have the right to present evidence that shows that you may deserve a lesser jail sentence.
Wisconsin law allows the judge to impose a bifurcated sentence that includes some time in prison and some time under supervised release. The law does not allow the combined period to exceed the maximum period of confinement for the type of felony involved. Your criminal defense attorney would argue for as much of that sentence as possible to be supervised release and for as little jail time as possible.
The Consequences of a Felony Conviction in Wisconsin
The severity of a felony charge cannot be overstated. You would have a criminal record for the rest of your life, even after you completed the terms of your sentence.
Felonies will carry a variety of consequences beyond jail time, including:
- While Wisconsin does not allow employers to discriminate based on a criminal record, you would not be able to qualify for certain jobs
- If you are not a United States citizen, you could be deported from the country (even if you have a Green Card)
- You would lose the right to own a firearm
- If you have a custody matter, your right to have custody of and see your children could be affected
It is crucial that you contact an attorney, either right after you have been charged or when you learn that you are under investigation for a felony. It is vital that you employ the best possible legal strategy to achieve the best possible outcome in your felony case. Your lawyer would review the circumstances and the possible evidence being used against you to help determine the best path forward.
Defense Strategies When You Are Facing Felony Charges in Wisconsin
One common strategy that an attorney may use is to wage a vigorous defense of the felony charges. When you show the prosecutor that you intend to fight, it may make them more likely to give you a better deal when negotiating a plea bargain.
More than anything, prosecutors want to earn a conviction without having to take the risk of losing a trial and spending an immense amount of their resources. They often want to move cases off their docket without having to devote many months to a contested trial. A prosecutor may offer you a plea deal not long after they have filed charges.
When you have been charged with one or more felonies, one of the best-case scenarios for a plea bargain is when the prosecutor lowers the charges to a misdemeanor. This concession in negotiations could allow you to avoid jail time entirely or greatly reduce the amount of the penalty. Misdemeanors are punishable by up to nine months in prison, depending on the classification.
Alternatively, you could fight the charges against you in court. Felonies require that the prosecutor prove that you had the intent to engage in the act that was the criminal offense. The prosecutor has a high burden of proof in that they prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Your lawyer could use the following strategies to win the trial on your behalf:
- Present evidence that could negate any one of the individual elements of the crime that the prosecutor must prove
- Present and prove an alibi on your behalf
- Challenge the evidence being used against you as the product of an illegal search
- Argue that law enforcement otherwise violated your rights, either through an illegal arrest or after the time that you were in custody
Contact an Appleton Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you have been charged with a felony, you need immediate legal help. The attorneys at Hogan Eickhoff will exert all possible effort to provide you with the strongest possible legal defense. We believe that everyone deserves quality legal representation in a judgment-free manner. You can reach us at all times to schedule a free initial consultation. Call us today at (920) 450-9800 or contact us online.