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Wisconsin Court Records

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What Do You Do if You Are On Trial For a Crime in Wisconsin?

Criminal cases in Wisconsin often begin with an arrest. Accused persons are taken into custody by law enforcement officers and notified of their right to remain silent until their lawyer is present. After arrest, the accused attends a bond hearing where the court sets conditions for bail. The conditions may include an amount to be paid, property as surety, or a written promise to appear in court when required. If the judge grants bail, the accused person is free to return home while the case moves through the Wisconsin Court System processes.

If the offense in question is a felony, the court will hold a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is reasonable cause for the case to go to trial. After the preliminary hearing, the accused must attend the arraignment where the court will read aloud the charges, and the accused will enter a plea. If the accused pleads ‘not guilty,’ the judge will set a trial date.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases go to Trial in Wisconsin?

The Circuit court is Wisconsin’s trial court. It has original jurisdiction over all criminal and civil cases in the state. The Circuit court’s jurisdiction comprises criminal jury trials, civil trials, juvenile, probate, and traffic cases. Between January 1 and December 31, 2019, a total of 110,750 criminal complaints were filed. Out of the number of complaints filed, 109,434 cases were opened, and 105,007 criminal case dispositions were made. Throughout the year, 37,104 cases were transferred out, and 58,678 cases are pending. Out of the pending cases, 37% (21698) were pending for 90 days, while 1,276 cases had been pending for three years or more.

When Does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

Wisconsin Statute Ann. § 805.01 guarantees every defendant’s right to a fair and speedy trial by the court or an impartial jury of the defendant’s peers. In a court trial, there is no jury; the judge determines guilt or innocence. In a jury trial, a panel of 12 randomly selected citizens delivers a verdict after deliberation. Parties to a case may choose to waive the right to a trial with the court’s consent and the state. Such parties may also choose to have a jury of fewer than twelve members. In jury trials, the defendant is only convicted if the jury delivers a unanimous guilty verdict.

One of the processes in a criminal case is an arraignment; here, the jury will read the charges against the defendants in open court, as well as the defendant’s rights. Additionally, a defendant must enter a plea at the arraignment; the plea may be ‘guilty,’ ‘not guilty,’ or no contest. Defendants who plead guilty waive the right to a trial, as the court will sentence such persons without a trial.

What are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in Wisconsin?

The stages of a criminal trial in Wisconsin are:

  • Opening statements
  • Direct witness examination
  • Cross-examination
  • Evidence presentation
  • Closing arguments
  • Jury charge
  • Jury deliberation
  • Verdict
  • Sentencing

How Long Does it Take For a Case to Go to Trial in Wisconsin?

The time it takes for a case to go to trial and conclude depends on the offense’s seriousness and the plea the defendant enters. This variation is because some offenses involve more processes than others. For example, misdemeanor cases typically resolve faster than felony cases. Misdemeanor cases do not involve preliminary hearings. Additionally, if the defendant pleads guilty at the arraignment, the case will not go to trial, and the defendant will face sentencing. Typically, a misdemeanor case resolves between three to four months, while a felony case may take up to one year or more.

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Wisconsin?

When a defendant pleads ‘not guilty,’ and the pre-trial stage does not conclude the trial, the case proceeds to trial. Criminal case trials begin with a process known as ‘Voire Dire,'’ which is the jury selection. The defendant’s attorney and the state attorney each present opening statements in the court. The opening statement is the foundation on which the attorneys build a case and set expectations for the trial. After the opening remarks, the defense and the prosecution both present witnesses to testify and examine. Cross-examination will follow, and then the presentation of evidence. The closing statements form the final arguments from the defendant’s attorney and the state prosecutor. The judge will then charge the jury. For a defendant to be convicted, the jury must deliver a unanimous guilty verdict, after which the court will schedule a sentencing hearing. If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, the case has reached its end, and the defendant will be discharged and acquitted. If the jury does not reach a verdict, the court will declare a mistrial and schedule another trial. In a bench trial, only the judge determines innocence or guilt.

Can you be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in Wisconsin?

No, it is not possible to charge a person twice for the same crime in Wisconsin. Federal law (U.S. Const. amend.V) and Wisconsin state laws protect citizens against excessive punishment and the accompanying harassment. Federal and state Double Jeopardy laws ensure that citizens are not tried, charged, or punished more than once for the same offense with the same facts. However, if an act constitutes an offense in more than one state or under both state and federal laws, a court may charge the accused in the different states or both state and federal courts.

Additionally, if a case does not pose a risk of guilt or punishment, the Double Jeopardy clause is not applicable.

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Wisconsin?

Circuit Court Clerks are the custodians of court records; therefore, parties interested in looking up or obtaining copies of criminal court records in Wisconsin may contact the Clerk of Court in the county where the case was heard or is ongoing. Alternatively, interested parties may look up court records online through government websites such as Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA), Wisconsin Case Search, and third-party websites.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in Wisconsin

Parties interested in electronic access to Wisconsin court records may view the records through state websites such as the Wisconsin Case Search and the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA). The WCCA only provides access to public court records and does not include information about confidential records such as juvenile delinquency, child protection, adoption, guardianship, parental rights termination, and civil commitment records.

Wisconsin Case Search and WCCA allow users to search for court cases using:

  • Case number
  • Party name
  • Business name
  • Attorney name
  • Birthdate
  • County
  • Case status
  • District
  • Filing date

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile.
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Wisconsin?

Parties can petition the court to remove Wisconsin public court records through expungement. In Wisconsin, this is the process of sealing a court record and making it inaccessible to the public. Expunged records are sealed by court order and can only be opened by court order. To qualify for expungement, the subject of the record must:

  • Be less than 25 years old and have completed sentence requirements for an offense punishable by no more than six (6) years imprisonment.
  • A juvenile who has completed sentence requirements and reached the age of 17
  • A victim of human trafficking
  • Arrested but not charged with a crime
  • Arrested but have charges dismissed

Interested parties must file a petition for expungement at the court where the case was heard. For offenders under 25 years old, the party must file the petition at the sentencing hearing.

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