Hurry up and wait….

Thankfully, most people don’t have a lot of interaction with the legal system. The one drawback to this is that, unless you have a family member who is an attorney, most people’s understanding of the legal system comes from Law & Order marathons, movies, or something that they remember when a friend of a friend had a run in with the law. We like to keep you up to date on a variety of topics on our blog and this is going to be our first installment of Misconceptions, common misunderstandings of the legal system. Stay tuned for more and e-mail us with topics you would like to see us address in the future.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the legal system is how fast it works. On TV we see some get arrested or file for divorce, and a week later we are on the edge of our seats as the verdict is read. While that makes for good TV, the truth of the matter is that once your case is set in motion, you are going to be doing a lot of waiting. There isn’t a set time that a case takes to finish up, in extreme situation, a case can finish up in a matter of days or drag on for years. In general however, the length of time it takes to resolve a criminal case depends on several factors, how many charges you are facing, the severity of your charges, if there are any issues to be investigated, motions to be filed, as well as countless others, including whether or not the case is resolving with a dismissal, plea agreement, or a trial.

Another reason that cases tend to take a while is because the judge hearing your case also is overseeing other cases. Depending on the county you are charged in, some judges may have upward of several hundred open cases. This makes scheduling a court appearance a bit more complicated and often times the earliest available date will be several weeks away. This is one reason to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Some court appearances may require hours of legal research or reviewing of files, as well as drafting documents. If an attorney does not have enough time before the appearance, they may have to ask the court for a setover, delaying the process even further.

While there are many factors that come into play in determining how long a case takes to resolve, there are a few general rules of thumb:

uCriminal Misdemeanor: Generally speaking, a criminal you can expect a misdemeanor case to take somewhere around four to six months to resolve from charging to the final outcome.

uCriminal Felony: This is a little more difficult to predict, especially if there are multiple counts or the charge comes with a mandatory registry, or minimum sentence. In most cases a lower level felony case is resolved in around nine months to one year. For more serious level felonies, it could be a year or more. For specific cases or factors, contact an attorney for a better estimate.

uDivorce: In Wisconsin, by law, the shortest amount of time you can get divorced in is four months. The timeframe for a divorce is really more linked to the type of divorce that is taking place. A divorce with no children tends to be quicker than a divorce with children, which tends to be true of shorter marriages versus longer marriages. Other factors include the amicableness of the parties involved.

There are some cases in which there is an advantage to a case being drawn out, but in most situations, a client’s best interest is served getting the matter resolved sooner rather than later. An attorney, after hearing the facts of the case, can usually give you a timeline on how quickly a case can be resolved, and in addition may have strategies to help bring the case to resolution more quickly. Remember, contacting an attorney as soon as possible is usually the most helpful thing to do no matter what type of case you have.