Wisconsin Criminal Appeals

Any lawyer will tell you that the fight for your freedom doesn’t always end with a conviction of guilt. Under Wisconsin law, anyone who has been convicted of a state felony or misdemeanor offense has an automatic right to appeal that decision to a higher court.

If you have been convicted of a crime, and are looking to appeal that verdict, you no doubt have many questions. What follows will provide some of the information you’ll need to move forward with confidence that justice can still prevail.

Furthermore, even if you have been convicted of a civil offense, such as a first offense operating while intoxicated charge, you have the right to appeal.

What is an Appeal?

In the legal sense, an appeal is a challenge to a previous legal decision that you and your attorney will bring before a higher court than the one which made the previous decision. You can appeal the conviction itself, arguing that you should not have been found guilty, or the sentence, arguing that it does not fairly represent punishment for the crime.

An appeal can be requested for many different reasons in Wisconsin.

In general, there must be some type of error or good reason that must be presented for the appeal to be considered.

What Are Some Examples of Appellate Issues?

There are several reasons why higher courts overturn convictions including:

Issues with Evidence:
This can imply that there had been insufficient evidence in the original trial, or that more evidence has been discovered since the prior verdict was handed down.

Constitutional Violations:
Either by law enforcement or other government officials, this claim states that the defendant’s rights could have been breached.

Inadequate Representation of the Defendant:
This implies that the attorney who represented the defendant in the original trial did not properly fulfill their duty or misrepresented the client.

False Arrest:
There are several legal requirements law enforcement must satisfy to place you in custody. Failure to meet any of them can potentially constitute a false arrest.

Below is a list of example criminal appeals that we handle:

  • • Sex Offenses
  • • Internet Crimes
  • • Drug Offenses
  • • Homicide/Violent Crimes
  • • Domestic Violence
  • • White Collar Crimes
  • • Impaired Driving
  • • Juvenile Offenses


How Does the Appeals Process Work?

In the State of Wisconsin, anyone who has been convicted of either a misdemeanor or a state felony is granted an automatic right to appeal. The same applies to civil convictions.  Whether a conviction was decided by a jury or by a judge in a bench trial, an appeal can be filed to question the lower court’s decision based on applicable laws, asserting that there were defects or flaws in the initial trial. The Court of Appeals may review any number of procedural matters to find any fault, from mishandled objections to improperly instructed jurors.  Likewise, any aspect of the sentencing can be raised to the Court of Appeals.

At Tracey Wood & Associates, we start with a review of all proceedings during the initial trial. Searching for procedural errors or violations of your constitutional rights, we scrutinize every detail including transcripts, court files, witness statements and police records. Conducting our own investigation, we are known for preparing postconviction motions and creating ironclad briefs to present to the Court of Appeals, and to the seven justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court if necessary.

What is the First Step?

The first step in appealing a decision by a lower court is oftentimes to file an appellant’s brief outlining the legal arguments for appealing. This is usually filed by the appellant or their attorney but can also be filed by the State of Wisconsin in cases where the state feels there is a reason.

As a way to clarify any issues in the case that seem unclear, the appellate may file a post-conviction motion. This motion can be used to deny a guilty conviction, request a new trial, adjust sentencing, claim that counsel in the initial trial was ineffective, introduce further evidence that hadn’t been disclosed in the original trial, or overturn the initial judgement altogether.

Regardless of whether it was a jury trial or a bench trial (otherwise known as a judge trial), your case can be appealed, and you will have the automatic right to do so.

In the case of a jury trial, the appeal case will ask to review the jury’s decisions based solely on the law. The Court of Appeals will weigh the case made on your appeals brief, then determine if there were any procedural errors. These errors can include the admission of disputed evidence, incorrect application of the law, or improper jury instruction.

In the case of a bench trial, the Court of Appeals will review the nature of the sentence handed down by the judge following a conviction. The defendant’s appellate attorney can ask the Court of Appeals to determine whether the sentence was unnecessarily strict, or if the sentencing guidelines need to be reviewed.

Post-Conviction Relief Explained

If for any reason you believe that you did get a fair shake in the criminal justice system, you can request the justice system to reconsider the situation. Post-conviction relief allows the defendant to raise legal concerns or issues after a case has been decided in a court of law.

There are many forms of post-conviction relief in Wisconsin.  For example, it could take the form of a request to withdraw a plea or to request a new trial or a more mitigated sentence.  It could take the form of requesting the opportunity to file the motions that were not filed in the underlying case to get the relief desired.  Postconviction motions are usually filed in the trial court.  Either party then has the right to appeal to the Court of Appeals.

What Are State Direct Appeals?

A direct appeal goes straight to the Court of Appeals. Beginning with the submission of a Notice of Intent to Pursue Post Conviction Relief in a criminal case.  The process continues with both sides filing briefs, or written legal arguments, as to why they should win

In the case of state direct appeals, the Notice of Intent to Pursue Post-Conviction Relief document must be filed within 20 days of the original sentencing hearing. For federal direct appeals, this deadline is shortened to 10 days.  Federal appeals usually require more time and resources than direct state appeals.  In civil cases, the timeline can vary.

Following the hearing, the Court of Appeals can choose to either send the case back to trial or uphold the decision of the lower court.

Taking Your Case to the Supreme Court

Should the Court of Appeals choose to uphold the lower court’s decision, the defendant still retains the right to request a review of the case by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. This request is submitted by filing a Petition for Review, which must be filed within 30 days. Legally, the court will not even have the power to examine the case after those 30 days have passed.  The prosecution also has the right to pursue a petition for review to the Supreme Court if the defendant wins in the Court of Appeals.

Should the State Supreme Court choose to hear the defendant’s case, all seven justices will participate in rendering a decision, choosing one to write the opinion of the court.

Below is a helpful glossary that helps explain certain appellate and post-conviction relief terms in Wisconsin.

What is an Appeal in Wisconsin?

In the event someone losses their criminal or civil case or believes that the punishment for their criminal offense is unjust and unreasonable, an appeal is a legal process that requests that a higher court or appellate court, analyze and reviews the trial court’s decision for reconsideration.

What is a Motion?

A motion is a request to a court system or judge presented by legal counsel in the form of a document.

Appeals Brief:
The legal document filed by yourself or your attorney outlining the information on why your criminal case deserves to be considered for an appeal.

Direct Appeals: As part of the post-conviction relief process, a direct appeal is made directly through the appellate court, which will then decide whether or not to hear the case. The notice of intent to appeal must be filed within 20 days of your conviction.

Federal Direct Appeal: An appeal that was made to the federal court of appeals. The notice must be filed within 10 days after the judgement or conviction.  Federal appeals are much more intricate than a direct appeal.

Habeas Corpus: This is filed to contest illegal imprisonment and unlawful detention in jail or prison.

Petition for Certiorari: This is a petition that argues or asserts that the lower court may have potentially made mistakes or overlooked important aspects of the law.  It also asserts that any mistakes should be properly corrected to prevent any type of confusion in the future.

Petition for Review: If for whatever reason your appeal is denied, a petition for review is a countermeasure to challenge the court’s decision.  This is a document that requests the Supreme Court to revisit what occurred in the Court of Appeals.

Post-Conviction Motions: Motions filed that seek to assert concerns about a case. These can be used to obtain a new trial or a lighter sentence, assert inadequate assistance of counsel, overturn a judgement or introduce newly discovered evidence.

Sentence Modification: The alteration of a sentence issued after conviction of a criminal charge. This can include a shorter sentence or changing certain conditions of the sentence, such as allowing for house arrest.

Sentence Adjustment: The adjustment of the amount of sentence physically spent in prison, taking into account factors such as the defendant’s treatment in prison and their conduct while incarcerated.

How Can You Help?

At Tracey Wood and Associates, we have a proven record of appealing convictions, shining a light on the errors that led to those convictions, and pursuing the best possible outcomes. If you feel you have been unfairly convicted or sentenced, submit your information below to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Call (608) 490-5779 or Schedule a Free Case Evaluation Online

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