Criminal Court Process

Possible Outcomes of Prosecution

There are a number of possible resolutions or dispositions of a criminal case or charge. A case may be deferred, resulting in a dismissal of the charge if the person successfully completes a deferred prosecution agreement. Or, a case may proceed to conviction and sentencing. A person can be sentenced only if convicted. A person can be convicted only on his/her plea of guilty, or by a finding of guilt after a trial to a judge or jury.

There are a variety of sentencing possibilities. The range of possibilities is set by law. However, within that range the judge determines the sentence. An option the court has in most cases is probation. Probation may be ordered when a sentence is withheld or stayed. When probation is ordered, the judge may also order that the probationer comply with certain conditions that may include jail, treatment, no contact with victims, and others. If the offender violates probation and probation is revoked, the offender is returned to court for sentencing, or a term of imprisonment previously stayed is then imposed.

Other sentencing options available to the court are fines, jail and imprisonment. As stated earlier, the maximums available to the court for the crime are set by law, but the court determines sentence within that range.

Most convictions are the result of a plea of guilty by the defendant. Many of these guilty pleas are the product of negotiations between the prosecutor representing the State and the defendant. Negotiations may result in complete or partial agreement between the parties regarding the final outcome of the case. This agreement is then presented to the judge for approval. When all or some of the final outcome is not agreed to by the parties, both sides have the opportunity to present their positions to the judge, who then makes a final sentencing decision. A person convicted of a crime, even one who enters a plea of guilty, has the right to appeal his or her conviction. Most persons convicted of crime do not elect to do so, however. If your case is appealed, information about this process can be made available to you.

Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA)

Deferred prosecution is a program authorized by Wisconsin law, whereby a person facing criminal charges or charged with crime is diverted from the criminal court process. To be eligible to participate in deferred prosecution an offender usually has no prior criminal record, must accept responsibility for their offense, and must be willing to participate. In addition, participation is allowed only with the consent of the assistant district attorney. A person facing criminal charges can be referred to the program by the district attorney before or after charges are issued.

Participants are required to acknowledge responsibility for the criminal conduct and to sign a contract. The contract may require them to attend classes, pay restitution, engage in community service, and obtain counseling as needed. The contract is designed to require the participant to take appropriate measures to diminish the likelihood of further criminal behavior.

Successful completion of the program results in the dismissal of criminal charges against the person. If the person violates the contract or becomes involved in further criminal behavior, their case is returned to the district attorney or court for prosecution in criminal court.