Are all arrests the same? The short answer is, no. In some arrests, you are charged with a crime while in others you are not. If the penalty includes jail or prison time then you have been charged with a crime. There is one exception to this rule which is that you may face jail time if you fail to pay a fine or forfeiture. Although this is not considered a crime you may spend some time in jail.
In most cases such as traffic offenses and municipal or county ordinance violations these are not criminal offenses. Some offenses can be charged either as an ordinance or a criminal offense such as retail theft and/or shop lifting or disorderly conduct. Some offenses such as OWI are non-criminal for the first offense but criminal for the second or more offenses. The differences between a criminal and a non-criminal conviction are significant. First, a criminal conviction may affect getting jobs, school applications, getting a professional license, etc. Next, in a criminal case the prosecution must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt which is a much stricter requirement than in a non-criminal case. Finally, with a criminal case you have more legal rights such as the right to remain silent as well as the right to have an attorney. In addition, in a criminal case you cannot be forced to testify while in a non-criminal case the prosecution can call you to the stand and force you to testify against yourself.
If you, a friend or family member have been arrested and you have questions please contact either Attorney Matt McCasland or Andrew Krueger with questions. In the Baraboo area at (608) 356-3961, Madison area at (608) 824-9540 or Statewide at (866) 455-2993. Please check out our website at https://khtlawyers.com. Remember, at Krueger Hernandez & Thompson SC we listen, we care, we get results!