Right to Remain Silent

Bill of rights, constitution, 5th amendment, fifth amendment, racine, kenosha, westosha, milwaukee, wisconsinThe Right To Reman Silent

The 5th Amendment was ratified by Congress in 1791. It is part of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. The 5th Amendment provides several protections, but one of the most commonly invoked protections is the right to remain silent. This right originally only applied to proceedings in federal court but not state court. This is a crucial distinction, as most criminal defendants are tried in state courts. This changed after the Civil War as part of a trend in which the Bill of Rights was systematically applied to all of the states by the United States Supreme Court. In 1961, the Supreme Court decided in Miranda v. Arizona that the right to remain silent applied not just in the courtroom, but also to any situation where individual freedom of action is curtailed, such as police interrogation.

Defendants Usually Do Not Testify

The 5th Amendment right to remain silent has thus grown dramatically from its humble beginnings in 1791. Indeed, popular depictions of the 5th Amendment Right are numerous. They might involve a defendant in a criminal case refusing to take the stand at trial, or a suspect in police custody refusing to answer questions without the presence of a lawyer. Although often dramatized, these situations are very common. In criminal cases, defendants usually do not testify. This is sometimes because the defendant would need to tell the truth on the stand about what happened and thus give evidence against himself. In other situations, a defendant may avoid the stand so their testimony cannot be misconstrued to say something different than what they meant. Before a criminal trial, the defendant’s attorney will help him to understand the benefits and the risks of taking the stand.

You Can Decline To Talk To The Police

But does the right to remain silent apply to someone who is not on trial? What if the police ask you questions about someone else who is suspected of having committed a crime? Often, people believe that they have to answer questions asked by the police. However, this is not the case. It is acceptable for you to decline to answer any questions asked by the police, even if you have been subpoenaed as a witness in a criminal case. Furthermore, refusing to answer questions may be a wise decision, especially if your answers could be interpreted more than one way. If you are in doubt about whether you should answer questions asked by the police, you should politely decline and then consult with an attorney. This is a better alternative to making an incriminating admission. If you do answer questions, always be truthful.

Corporations And Business Entities Do Not Have The Right To Remain silent

When does the Fifth Amendment not apply? The Fifth cannot be pled by corporations or business entities. It is available only to an individual person. Also, the Fifth cannot preclude a third party, such as your employer, from producing documents to incriminate you.

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If you are in doubt as to whether to exercise your right to remain silent, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

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Crime Classification: Where To Draw the Line?

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As popularity never fades, there is a perpetual supply of crime related shows, but what makes a crime, a crime? Wisconsin State Legislature defines crime as “conduct which is prohibited by state law and is punishable by fine or imprisonment (or both).” (Statute 939.12) Most people know that criminal actions are sorted into categories based on their severity. These categories include infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions are considered the mildest of the three, and felonies classify the most serious crimes committed. Depending on the severity or classification of the crime, the court procedures and minimum sentence guidelines are different. Each case also has its own ‘flavor’, meaning they are examined on a case-by-case basis.

In the state of Wisconsin, there are only two of the classifications mentioned above, misdemeanors and felonies. “A crime punishable by imprisonment in the Wisconsin state prisons is a felony. Every other crime is a misdemeanor.” (Wisconsin State Legislature 939.60) This is the difference between being ‘jailed’ (being incarcerated for no more than 365 days) and being sent to a state prison where incarceration lasts for a year or more. I will still give a little information about infractions.


An infraction is the “violation of an administrative regulation, an ordinance, a municipal code, and in some jurisdictions, a state or local traffic rule.” (FindLaw 2018) Apart from previously mentioned minor traffic violations, here are a few more common examples of infractions:

  • Fishing without a license
  • Building permit violations
  • Drinking in public
  • Walking an unleashed dog

The infraction process begins when a citation is issued to a person by law enforcement. The ticket determines the case number, includes a description of the action and the state law or city code the action violates, the name of the issuer, the location of the courthouse, the deadlines for paying the fine or for an appearance in court, and lastly, instructions on how to pay the forfeiture. (FindLaw 2018)


A misdemeanor covers a very broad area of criminal activity and is a step below a felony. Misdemeanors usually include a fine and/or jail time less than a full year in a local or county jail (as opposed to a longer sentence in a state prison). In Wisconsin, misdemeanors are separated into classifications of A, B and C (A being more serious violations), and each has their own penalties as follows:

  • A Class A misdemeanor includes penalties of a fine that should not exceed $10,000, imprisonment longer than 9 months, or both. An example of a Class A misdemeanor is the theft of property worth no more than $2,500.
  • Class B misdemeanors include a fine that should not exceed $1,000 or imprisonment of 90 days or both. A situation that may be classified as a Class B misdemeanor would be disorderly conduct.
  • A Class C misdemeanor includes a fine that should not be greater than $500, an imprisonment that should not exceed 30 days or both. An example is a second conviction within 30 months for being a minor in possession of alcohol.

While a misdemeanor still isn’t a felony, these offenses are considered “crimes of moral turpitude”, which reflects a lack of knowledge of basic right and wrong, as well as a lack of a moral code of self-conduct. This depravity can negatively affect an individual’s ability to apply for scholarships and their ability to apply for and procure a job.


There is a fine line regarding the ethical standards of people convicted of a misdemeanor versus those convicted of a felony. As mentioned before, being sent to jail for misdemeanor calls for no more than 365 days of incarceration. An individual is sent to prison when they have been convicted of a felony and will serve time greater than a year. There are 9 classifications of felonies, A through I. Similar to misdemeanors, classification A is made up of more serious crimes, and in this case, the most heinous.

  • Class A felonies are punishable by life in prison. An example is a first-degree murder, which is carrying out a premeditated homicide.
  • Class B felonies demand a sentence of imprisonment for no more than 60 years. An example of a Class B felony is first-degree sexual assault, which ranges from rape of an incapacitated person to engage in the medical treatment of another for self-pleasure.
  • Class C and Class D felonies both include a fine not to exceed $100,000.  A Class C felony must not exceed imprisonment of 40 years, while a Class D felony must not exceed 25. Both imprisonment and the forfeiture may be included. An example is child enticement, which is luring a child for self-pleasure.
  • Class E felonies call for prison time not to exceed 15 years, or a fine not to exceed $50,000, or both. An example of a Class E felony is aggravated battery, which causes significant bodily harm to another.
  • Class F and Class G felonies include a fine not to exceed $25,000. Class F imprisonment may not exceed 12 years and 6 months, and Class G may not exceed 10 years. An individual may be penalized with both imprisonment and a fine. An example is pimping, which is in most cases, a man that uses an organized ring of prostitutes for a share of the earnings.
  • Class H and Class I felonies are monetarily penalized up to $10,000. A Class H felony prison time may not exceed 6 years, and a Class I felony may not exceed 3 years and 6 months. Both penalties of imprisonment and the forfeitures may be used in sentencing. An example is the theft of property worth $5,000 to $10,000.

The air just got a little heavier, but crime, especially committing a felony, is a serious matter. TV doesn’t show you the penalties that can be placed upon a person apart from ones included in Class A and Class B felonies (mostly because ‘milder’ crimes wouldn’t make good television). These same, crime-glamourizing spectacles fail to show the reality and long term repercussions on all parties involved. Misdemeanors and felonies are the kinds of situations that can ruin someone’s life, and not just the person being convicted. Survivors of violent crimes have to live with that life-altering trauma, and families of victims must go on without their mother, father, sister, brother, and so forth.

Moral of the story, think before you act, and keep both your future and others’ in mind. 

Contact our criminal attorneys today.

Country Thunder Traffic/Drug/Criminal Charges

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Violations Near Country Thunder

Wisconsin law enforcement is actively involved in preventing the possession and delivery of marijuana and other drugs, underage drinking, and traffic offenses that occur at or near the County Thunder music festival. Unfortunately, many people who attend Country Thunder are cited and arrested for relatively minor offenses and face the possibility of a criminal record. The police may tell you it is only a ticket, but the consequences can be very serious. Rizzo & Diersen, S.C. has experience defending against exactly these kinds of charges.

Our Attorneys Make Court Appearances For You

Country Thunder is hosted annually in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. In 2019, Country Thunder runs from August 16-18. If you were arrested or cited while at or near Country Thunder, contact Rizzo & Diersen, S.C. We handle every type of charge, including misdemeanor offenses, felony offenses, and traffic violationsIn many cases, our attorneys can even make the court appearances for you so that you do not have to travel.

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Alpine Valley Drug/Criminal Charges

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Wisconsin law enforcement is actively involved in preventing drug possession and delivery, underage drinking and other offenses that may occur at Alpine Valley. Unfortunately, many people who attend concerts at Alpine Valley are arrested for relatively minor offenses and face the possibility of a criminal record. They may tell you it is only a ticket, but it is VERY SERIOUS.

If you were arrested while at Alpine Valley, contact Rizzo & Diersen, S.C. We handle misdemeanor offenses, felony offenses, and traffic violations.

Contact our criminal attorneys today.