- You go to a preliminary hearing
- You’ll have pretrial conferences
- Your attorney may try to resolve your case with a plea agreement
- You’ll go to a sentencing hearing, if you were convicted
Your Initial Appearance
The first time you appear in court is called your initial appearance. This is where your attorney will enter your plea – he or she will tell the court you’re not guilty or guilty, based on what you two have discussed before the appearance.
The judge will set bail and provide you with conditions you have to stick to if you go free between your initial appearance and your next court date. If you fail to meet the conditions the judge sets, you’ll go straight back to jail.
Your Preliminary Hearing
If you’re accused of a felony, you’ll be entitled to a preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing revolves around determining whether a felony took place and that you were probably the person who committed it. If it’s plausible that you may have committed a felony, the case will begin the process of going to trial.
A pretrial conference (for misdemeanors and felonies) occurs when your lawyer and the state’s attorney try to negotiate over your case. This is when the state’s attorney might offer you a plea deal – but that doesn’t happen in every case. If your lawyer tells you the state is offering you a plea bargain, it’s totally up to you whether to accept it. However, your lawyer will give you his or her input and advice.
If you don’t receive or accept a plea agreement, you’ll go to trial. You have the right to a jury trial, but you can waive that right and proceed to a trial where only your judge presides. If you're found not guilty, that’s the end of the line – you’re free to go. If you’re found guilty, you’ll most likely be taken into (or kept in) custody.
If you’re convicted, the court can sentence you immediately or set a sentencing date. If you have a sentencing date, your attorney will go to court with you at that time, too.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Felony Charges?
If you’ve been accused of committing a felony or a misdemeanor, we can help you. Call us at 414-383-6700 for a free case review. You’ll talk to a Milwaukee criminal defense attorney who will answer your questions and give you case-specific legal advice.