If you’ve been arrested for a felony, you’re wondering what happens next. Being informed of the process and having an experienced Wisconsin Criminal defense Attorney on your side from the beginning can determine the outcome of your case. Once you’ve completed your initial appearance, the next step is the preliminary hearing. Here are some important things to know:
It looks like a court hearing but don’t let that fool you. There will be a judge or commissioner, court reporters, and witnesses. The reason for this hearing is to determine if there’s enough evidence to bring you to trial. This means the state must show probable cause exists that you committed a felony.
Wisconsin criminal law allows for the inclusion of hearsay evidence at the preliminary hearing. The prosecutor does not have to bring in specific witnesses to show probable cause. Hearsay laws allow for the reading of the police charges against you by anyone, whether they were involved in the case or not. Although this puts defense lawyers at a disadvantage, having a qualified Wisconsin Criminal defense Attorney can help you.
If the prosecutor can produce one credible witness to the stand to give testimony against you that may be all it takes to send your case to trial. Even if you have witnesses to testify in your favor, the prosecutor can use hearsay to meet his or her burden of proof to show probable cause that you committed a felony. You need a strong defense lawyer to cross-examine the state’s witness to help win your case.
Waiving The Preliminary Hearing
You have the right to waive the preliminary hearing and go straight to trial. Preliminary hearings are frequently waived, but it is important to first discuss your case with your attorney before deciding whether to waive your right to a preliminary hearing. Considerations for whether to waive the preliminary hearing include bringing an important witness for your defense to the stand before they become unwilling to give testimony, or as consideration for an offer from the prosecutor. Waiving your right to a preliminary hearing doesn’t mean that you’re pleading guilty, it only means you are acknowledging there is enough evidence to support a finding of probable cause that a felony was committed.
The most valuable step you can take if you’ve been charged with a felony is to get a defense lawyer who understands Wisconsin criminal law. The attorney may be able to reduce or get your charges dropped.