The Year 2024 Started Off With A Bang Due To Incredible Advocating By Attorney John Orth

The Year 2024 Started Off With A Bang Due To Incredible Advocating By Attorney John Orth

Sometimes clients can be their own worst enemies. And when acts of self-sabotage occur, that is when patience, compassion and persistence are at a tremendous premium. In a recent post, Attorney John Orth reported the following:

“While on probation for 10 counts of theft and robbery, R.A. was arrested for 14 additional counts of criminal charges, primarily theft and drug possession.  She was confined to jail on a probation hold and proceedings to revoke her probation were initiated.  Both episodes were clearly motivated by R.A.’s addiction.  Despite the severity of both the original and new charges, Attorney Orth was able to persuade both her probation agent and the prosecuting attorney that the inadequacy of her previous treatment plan was the root cause of reoffending.  After helping her to secure placement at a long-term treatment facility, Attorney Orth was able to avoid the revocation of her probation and secure a disposition on the new charges that avoided any further reincarceration.”

Sounds like a happy ending? Not so fast. Between the writing of the above narrative and the next court date at which this superlative disposition was to be formalized, R.A. absconded from her treatment facility after less than two weeks and resumed intensive drug use. Upon learning this, Attorney Orth immediately contacted R. A. and recommended that she turn herself in prior to the next court date as the best first step to repaving the way to reviving the settlement that he had previously secured. R. A. did not follow Attorney Orth’s recommendation and instead committed seven more felony retail thefts.

As is inevitably the case, R.A. was eventually picked up and placed on a probation hold and revocation proceedings were initiated once again. Attorney Orth was able to again secure an alternative to probation revocation in the form of supervised drug abuse treatment. However, this outcome would be contingent on the prosecuting attorney’s agreement to not pursue imprisonment on any of the pending charges. Given the circumstances and chronic nature of R.A.’s criminal history, this seemed unlikely. Yet that is exactly what happened. While the prosecution had initially revoked its previous agreement upon learning of R.A.’s latest crime spree, Attorney Orth was able to work with the Department of Corrections and the District Attorney’s Office to craft a solution that adequately satisfied both the concern for public welfare and R.A.’s treatment needs. R.A. is presently participating in an intensive treatment program. Upon successful completion of this program all pending charges will be resolved with a non-prison disposition. Although, as we know from experience, things don’t always go as planned.

Now, let’s consider the results achieved for client E.R. Following a highly contentious separation from his wife, E.R. was arrested and charged with felony first degree reckless endangering safety from an incident in which he was alleged to have deliberately cut the gas line at his ex-wife’s home in what the prosecution viewed as an attempt to end the lives of his ex-wife and children. The crime of first degree reckless endangering safety is defined by Wisconsin law as follows:

1. The defendant endangered the safety of another human being.

2. The defendant endangered the safety of another by criminally reckless conduct.

“Criminally reckless conduct” means the conduct created a risk of death or great bodily harm to another person; and the risk of death or great bodily harm was unreasonable and substantial; and the defendant was aware that his or her conduct created the unreasonable and substantial risk of death or great bodily harm.

“Great bodily harm” means injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or other serious bodily injury.

3. The circumstances of the defendant’s conduct showed utter disregard for human life. In determining whether the circumstances of the conduct showed utter disregard for human life, consider these factors: what the defendant was doing; why the defendant was engaged in that conduct; how dangerous the conduct was; how obvious the danger was; whether the conduct showed any regard for life; and all other facts and circumstances relating to the conduct.

E.R. acknowledged tripping over a gas line while visiting the property but fastidiously denied that he caused any damage intentionally. Certainly a simple accident could not constitute “criminally reckless conduct” as described above. Knowing that an accidental tear could be distinguished from and intentional cutting, Attorney Orth enlisted the assistance of an expert from the National Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners and was ultimately able to convince the prosecuting attorney that no crime at all had been committed resulting in the dismissal of the first degree reckless endangering safety charge.

And then there is client G.T., a U.W. Madison student. G.T. had a not-so-great evening recently. Following a bit more imbibement than good judgment would recommend, G.T. woke up to find that he had been issued a criminal charge of disorderly conduct. It turns out that passing out in a stranger’s front lawn can be viewed as criminally disturbing behavior. Given G.T.’s relative youth and lack of any criminal history, it would seem a shame to have G.T.’s reputation marred by even a criminal charge being filed, much less a conviction being sought. In such situations it is critical to have experienced and aggressive representation that knows when and how to intervene to get the best possible outcome. Where some attorneys might simply wait for the court date assigned to G.T., enter a not guilty plea and then attempt to negotiate a favorable disposition at a later time, Attorney Orth took a more proactive approach. Knowing that police reports and a charging recommendation would be filed with the District Attorney’s Office within the few weeks following the incident, he made contact with the District Attorney’s Office on a daily basis until the case was under review for a charging decision. When that occurred Attorney Orth was able to arrange a meeting with the Assistant District Attorney who was reviewing the case. Following that meeting charges were declined altogether and G.T. was spared with unpleasantness and public humiliation that comes with defending against criminal charges.

Attorneys Steve Mays and John Orth Continue to Advocate Great Deals For Their Clients in 2023

Attorneys Steve Mays and John Orth Continue to Advocate Great Deals For Their Clients in 2023

Some recent success stories from the criminal defense side of Mays Law Office, LLC.

In the Village of Marshall four teenagers were charged with one count each of disorderly conduct and damage to public property.  The charges arose from an incident in which a public park’s bathrooms and concession stand were vandalized.  An onlooker flagged down an officer and reported what she had just seen.  Four of the teenagers were identified and subsequently questioned by the officer.  Each one gave conflicting and shifting accounts of what occurred.  The only consistency is that each one denied being involved and suggested that the others were responsible.  A little over a week prior to the matters proceeding to trial, Attorney John Orth was retained to represent one of the teens.  After obtaining police reports Attorney Orth made contact with the prosecuting attorney.  Her position was that given the fact that no one was accepting any responsibility, she would not be offering any plea deals or concessions and simply proceed to trial and let the judge decide which, if any, of the teens were being truthful.  When the trial was about to commence, Attorney Orth requested a meeting with all of the parents present.  After a rocky start with each of the parents being angry in varying degrees with their own children, the other children, and the police, Attorney Orth set about seeking some common ground, common sense, and a unified plan for how to proceed.  As always, the number one objective is to avoid convictions and sometimes that requires creativity, flexibility, and persuasion.  After some back and forth between the prosecuting attorney and the group of parents, Attorney Orth was able to reach a solution that was beneficial to all involved.  Rather than proceeding to trial and having the judge try to sort out the truth, Attorney Orth was able to convince the prosecuting attorney to agree to hold the charges open for 60 days.  During that time each of the teens would agree to perform eight to ten hours of community service for the Parks Department and all of the families would split the relatively modest restitution for repairing the damage four ways.  Upon fulfilling these obligations, all charges were dismissed.  An event that began with palpable anxiety and angry grumbling ended with a group of families lightheartedly chatting and catching up.

Attorney Stephen Mays was contacted by the distraught mother of a 17-year-old boy, ND, who was being held in the county jail for days pending a bail hearing before a court commissioner.  He was being charged with felony reckless endangering of safety for allegedly driving at a speed in excess of 115 MPH in a high-traffic business district with a 35 MPH speed limit.  While ND’s conduct may have been impulsive and perhaps reckless (two things teenagers often are), Attorney Mays was determined not to have a young man be saddled with a felony conviction that could haunt him for the rest of his life.  By focusing on the positive attributes in ND’s life – great grades, being in the process of obtaining a pilot’s license, working multiple jobs – Attorney Mays we able to convince the prosecuting attorney that this is a promising young man with a bright future that would be all but destroyed by a felony conviction and greatly hampered by any conviction.  Attorney Mays got the charge reduced to a misdemeanor charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle and secured a deferred prosecution agreement ultimately resulting in dismissal of the charge.  In the end, ND won’t have so much as even a speeding ticket to show for this incident.

Following a three-month long intensive investigation by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency working in conjunction with local law enforcement, GV was arrested in a sting operation executed by the Wisconsin State Patrol.  The investigators obtained warrants to track all of GV’s movements by GPS and ultimately determined that a storage unit was the nexus of his activities and a warrant for its search was obtained.  While the State Patrol was detaining GV in a traffic stop that ultimately led to his arrest for misdemeanor possession of cocaine, the search warrant for the storage unit was executed.  Among other evidence, agents seized an entire pound of cocaine.  Initially charged in state court for simple possession of cocaine while the evidence from the storage unit was being processed, GV was referred by a trusted friend to Attorney Orth for representation.  Given the overwhelming strength of the evidence and the fact that law enforcement methodically followed proper procedures and secured valid warrants every step of the way, the best strategy was to work out the best deal possible.  And to do so for not only the current misdemeanor charge, but to begin negotiations on the upcoming felony possession with intent to deliver while there was still a possibility to wrap that more serious charge into a state court agreement.  Were it to be filed in the Federal District Court, GV would be facing sentencing guidelines that would ensure a lengthy prison sentence given the amount of cocaine seized.  Ultimately, Attorney Orth was able to convince the prosecutor to agree to impose but stay a two-year prison sentence and instead place GV on probation for three years.  One pound of cocaine and not a day in prison – no small feat.

LR was charged with felony stalking of underage victims.  The alleged victims in this case were his step-grandchildren – the children of LR’s second wife’s son and his wife.  During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the children’s parents had concerns about their grandmother’s and LR’s level of safety precautions and drastically reduced the amount of exposure LR and his wife were allowed to have with the children.  This conflict ultimately led to a souring of relations between the two families and LR and his wife were told to have no contact with them.  However, given that all parties live in the same small town, incidental contact would be practically inevitable.  In instances in which that would happen, LR found it to feel awkward and downright mean spirited to ignore the children.  Instead, he would simply wave or say hello.  These seemingly innocuous gestures incensed the children’s parents.  And as often unfortunately happens, what might have been a minor and easily correctable dispute turns into a potentially life altering event when law enforcement is brought into the picture.  Given the serious charge LR was now facing, he turned to Mays Law Office for assistance.  Over the course of nearly three years of persistent advocacy, investigation and negotiation, Attorney Mays was successful in convincing the prosecuting attorney that the allegations reported by the parents were, in fact, simply trumped up, concocted out of sheer anger and lacking any real merit.  Throughout that time, Attorney Mays made it perfectly clear that he would absolutely not settle for anything less than outright dismissal.  And in the end, that’s exactly what he secured for LR.

Mays Law Office is proud of the results that they continually get for their clients.  This kind of strong advocacy comes in many forms that can only be mastered with experience and a strong reputation.  Attorneys Mays and Orth have more than 45 years of combined experience defending their clients in criminal matters with superb results.  Contact them today for a free consultation.

What is Wisconsin’s Implied Consent Law?

What is Wisconsin’s Implied Consent Law?

All drivers in Wisconsin are subject to the state’s “implied consent” law. This law comes into play when the police pull you over on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI); and if you violate the state’s implied consent law during your traffic stop, this can have serious consequences.

Not only can it have serious consequences in your DUI case, but you can also face charges under Wisconsin’s implied consent law. While Wisconsin’s DUI laws and the implied consent law go hand-in-hand, an implied consent violation is its own stand-alone offense. This means that even if you aren’t guilty of DUI, you can still be found guilty of an implied consent violation. As we discuss below, implied consent violations carry significant penalties—and, again, these penalties apply regardless of whether you are guilty of DUI.

What is Wisconsin’s Implied Consent Law

Wisconsin’s Implied Consent Law: An Overview

The first step toward understanding Wisconsin’s implied consent law is understanding what is meant by “implied consent.” Section 343.305(2) of the Wisconsin Statutes defines this term as follows:

“Any person who . . . operates a motor vehicle upon the public highways of this state. . . is deemed to have given consent to one or more tests of his or her breath, blood or urine, for the purpose of determining the presence or quantity in his or her blood or breath, of alcohol, controlled substances, . . . or other drugs . . . when requested to do so by a law enforcement officer [] or when required to do so under [Wisconsin’s DUI laws].”

In short, the act of driving on Wisconsin’s public roads acts as your voluntary consent (or implied consent) to a breath, blood, or urine test when the police pull you over on suspicion of DUI. If you refuse to take a breath, blood, or urine test when requested to do so, this can be prosecuted as an implied consent violation. However, there are conditions on your obligation to submit to testing (most often a breath test conducted using a breathalyzer device); and, if the police officer who pulls you over does not satisfy all of these conditions, then you may be within your right to refuse to provide a sample.

For example, Section 343.305(4) of the Wisconsin Statute states that the officer must provide the following information when requesting a breath, blood, or urine test:

  • “You have either been arrested for an offense that involves driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, or you are the operator of a vehicle that was involved in an accident that caused the death of, great bodily harm to, or substantial bodily harm to a person, or you are suspected of driving or being on duty time with respect to a commercial motor vehicle after consuming an intoxicating beverage.
  • “This law enforcement agency now wants to test one or more samples of your breath, blood or urine to determine the concentration of alcohol or drugs in your system. If any test shows more alcohol in your system than the law permits while driving, your operating privilege will be suspended. If you refuse to take any test that this agency requests, your operating privilege will be revoked and you will be subject to other penalties. The test results or the fact that you refused testing can be used against you in court.
  • “If you take all the requested tests, you may choose to take further tests. You may take the alternative test that this law enforcement agency provides free of charge. You also may have a test conducted by a qualified person of your choice at your expense. You, however, will have to make your own arrangements for that test.
  • “If you have a commercial driver’s license or were operating a commercial motor vehicle, other consequences may result from positive test results or from refusing testing, such as being placed out of service or disqualified.”

Wisconsin’s implied consent law includes specific testing requirements as well. These requirements range from specific procedures for breath tests and blood draws to certification requirements for individuals who conduct breath, blood, and urine analyses. Failure to comply with the applicable requirements can render the test results invalid or unreliable—and raising questions about the validity or reliability of a breath, blood, or urine test can be a key defense strategy in many DUI cases.

Consequences of Violating Wisconsin’s Implied Consent Law

As mentioned above, if you violate Wisconsin’s implied consent law by refusing to submit to testing (when the police have met all applicable requirements), you can face significant penalties regardless of whether you are ultimately found guilty of DUI. In Wisconsin, the penalties for implied consent violations can include:

  • Driver’s license suspension (12 months)
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID)
  • Alcohol assessment and treatment

If sentenced to an IID or alcohol assessment and treatment, you will be required to comply at your expense; and, if you lose your driver’s license, you will have to pay to get your license reinstated when the suspension ends.

Even more importantly, if you unlawfully refuse a breath, blood, or urine test, prosecutors can use your refusal against you in your DUI case. Essentially, they can say that the fact that you refused testing shows that you knew you were too drunk to drive. Of course, this isn’t necessarily the case, and most Wisconsin residents aren’t familiar with the implied consent law’s requirements. This is a fact (among many others) that an experienced defense lawyer may be able to use in your favor. With substantial fines, surcharges, and possibly even jail time on the table, you will need to work with an experienced defense lawyer to fight your DUI (and your implied consent violation) by all means available.

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced DUI Defense Lawyer in Madison, WI

If you are facing the consequences of refusing a breath, blood, or urine test during a DUI stop in Wisconsin, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. Call 608-257-0440 or request a free consultation online to speak with an experienced DUI defense lawyer in Madison, WI as soon as possible. 

Success of the Criminal Defense Side in 2022

Success of the Criminal Defense Side in 2022

Reflecting back on 2022, the criminal defense side of Mays Law Office, LLC had some very interesting cases with some spectacular results.  A few highlights from Attorneys Stephen Mays and John Orth warrant mention:

Client N.J. avoided a felony conviction (fourth offense Operating While Intoxicated), which would have sent him to Federal Prison due to him being on Federal Probation at the time.  (New felony conviction = revocation of federal probation).  While driving at a time the State was unable to establish, Client N.J. went off the road and hit a barn on someone’s property.  After the accident, Client N.J. went home and consumed alcohol.  There were witnesses to this after-driving alcohol consumption.  The arresting agency arrived at the scene of the accident approximately five (5) hours after the accident took place.  They concluded that N.J. was the driver, went to his residence, and arrested him for a fourth offense operating while intoxicated (OWI).  Client N.J. originally admitted driving, but no time was established, and he told the police he drank quite a bit after arriving home.  Client N.J. originally retained Mays Law Office, LLC, thinking this was his third offense OWI.  Client N.J. had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .074 at the time he was arrested – which made Client N.J. under the legal limit for driving on a 3rd offense (.08).  The State later discovered the existence of a third prior OWI conviction – making this current allegation a 4th Offense, where his legal limit now would be .02.  Attorney Steve Mays was able to convince the State that they could not establish the time of driving, thereby making the BAC test of .074 not legally relevant or admissible in the case as not having been taken within three (3) hours of any time of driving.  Additionally, Attorney Mays also convinced the State that they could not establish that Client N.J. was intoxicated before the accident occurred, rather than having gotten to the .074 level after arriving home following the accident.  In conclusion, the State agreed it could not prove Client N.J. was either intoxicated or had a prohibited alcohol concentration in going off the road and hitting the barn.  Thus, and because Client N.J. had admitted to driving the vehicle which hit the barn, the State agreed to amend the felony fourth offense OWI to a misdemeanor charge of Negligent Operation of a Vehicle off the Highway.  A huge victory for Client N.J. as he avoided the possibility of going to prison and a lifetime driver’s license revocation on the original OWI 4th charge, as well as having his Federal Probation revoked and sent back to Federal Prison for close to three (3) years.

Client B.M. avoided a hefty prison sentence that a sixth offense operating while intoxicated (OWI) carries by the proactiveness and tenacity demonstrated by Attorney John Orth in this case.  Client B.M. was seen in his vehicle by an officer parked at a closed gas station in the early hours of the morning.  The officer ran the registration and determined that it was valid and that the registered owner possessed a valid driver license.  Client B.M. exited the parking lot and the officer continued patrolling the area.  Approximately 20 minutes later, the same officer saw Client B.M. again parked at a different closed gas station.  The officer stated in his narrative report that this was “suspicious in nature” due to recent calls of burglaries and catalytic converter thefts in the area and he therefore initiated a traffic stop of Client B.M.  Attorney Orth took the position that, while perhaps somewhat unusual, there was nothing inherently “suspicious” about Client B.M.’s behavior, nor could any logical connection be made between the observed conduct and burglary or auto parts theft.  However, perhaps realizing that the grounds upon which he had detained Client B.M. were shaky, the officer conveniently added to his report that Client B.M.’s license plate was obstructed by its frame and therefore the stop could be justified based on an equipment violation.  Client B.M., knowing his plate was not obstructed, took a picture of it immediately upon his release on bail and sent it to Mays Law Office.  But as anyone familiar with the justice system will attest, in these situations, nine times out of ten the officer will simply claim, “That’s not how it was the night of the stop”, and nine times out of ten judges will accept this explanation.  Unfortunately, the officer’s squad video was insufficiently clear to establish the condition of the plate.  However, a careful review of a backup officer’s body cam revealed a split-second window of time in which the plate could clearly be seen.  It was not obstructed and was in precisely the condition depicted in Client B.M.’s photograph.  Armed with a screen capture, Attorney Orth was able to definitively disprove the officer’s claim.  In a motion to suppress any evidence obtained as a result of the unlawful stop of Client B.M., Attorney Orth argued that the officer was simply and impermissibly acting on a hunch rather than legitimate reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in violation of Client B.M.’s 4th Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures and that the alleged equipment violation was an outright fabrication.  When the time came for the Court to hear the defense’s suppression motion, rather than allowing his officer to be humiliated on the stand, the prosecuting attorney released the officer from his subpoena and directed him to leave, conceded that the stop was unlawful and moved to dismiss the case in its entirety.  Client B.M. walked out of the courthouse vindicated and no longer facing a prison sentence of up to ten (10) years.

Client F.C. needed Mays Law Office’s services when he was charged with a third offense Operating While Intoxicated (OWI).  Attorney Steve Mays had known Client F.C. personally prior to this incident.  When Client F.C. initially called Attorney Mays for help with his legal case, Attorney Mays spoke to him and, at Client F.C.’s request, he also spoke with Client F.C.’s brother, mother and other family members.  This was because Client F.C. was going to be entering an in-patient Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) treatment facility.  Client F.C. wanted Attorney Mays to be able to be in contact with his family while he was in the treatment facility.  This ended up being one of the best things, and a big part of the success Client F.C. would end up having in his journey toward sobriety.  Attorney Mays joined forces with the family to be an ever-present source of support for Client F.C.  Throughout the case, Attorney Mays spoke with, or had some contact with, both Client F.C. or his family, at least once a week to stay apprised as to his well-being and status in the treatment facility.  While Client F.C. ultimately chose to accept full responsibility for his actions and plead guilty to the OWI charge, Client F.C. was able to take back control of his life by becoming sober.  He attributes this to his voluntary entry into the Sober Living House and the support of Attorney Mays and Client F.C.’s family unit – both of which continued to support him and his goal of changing his life.  In a recent conversation with Client F.C., he proudly relayed to Mays Law Office that as of that day he was 319 days sober and counting.  He is now dedicated to helping others who struggle with an alcohol addiction by being a sponsor to them and being there for them in their time of need.  Although this is not the classic “win” in the eyes of the law (i.e., we did not suppress evidence or get the ever-so-satisfying two word “Not Guilty” verdict), it was a win for Client F.C., his loved ones and Mays Law Office knowing he has taken charge of the direction he wants his life to go.  We could not be more proud of him and his dedication to a new lifestyle and complete sobriety and his dedication to assist others still struggling with addiction.

These cases are just a sampling of the results Attorneys Steve Mays and John Orth were able to achieve this past year, 2022.  Through constant communication with our clients we have proven to get outstanding results for them.  Steve and John always act with an eye for winning at any level, in any type of case.  No case is too difficult or intimidating for them.  They are not afraid to take on any prosecutor or advocate for their clients to any judge Statewide.  They have, just this past year, appeared in over 40 counties throughout Wisconsin.  And while they are tenacious litigators, they still view each case individually, and personally, and realize that every client who hires them is more than just a client – they are people.  They are always treated with the utmost respect and concern for each of their individual situations.  That’s why Mays Law Office gets the majority of its criminal and OWI clients from personal referrals from past and current clients.  These results are just the tip of the iceberg of the criminal defense/OWI success Mays Law Office, LLC experienced in 2022.  If you are in need of an experienced criminal defense and/or OWI attorney, call Mays Law Office, LLC today at (608) 257-0440.

Know the penalties for Wisconsin drug crimes

Know the penalties for Wisconsin drug crimes

Wisconsin drug possession penalties vary depending on the type of substance, the amount, prior convictions, and other factors. Before facing a court date for this type of charge, you should hire a criminal defense attorney who explains to you all the potential consequences of a conviction.

Learn more about the provisions of Wisconsin’s drug sentencing guidelines.

Types of controlled substances

Similar to federal law, Wisconsin law divides drugs into five schedules depending on their abuse potential and proven medical use. Schedule I substances include PCP, LCD and other hallucinogens, heroin and cannabis. Schedule II drugs include opium, codeine, cocaine, morphine, amphetamines, and methadone. Schedules III, IV, and V substances have less potential for abuse and widely accepted medical use. Examples include ketamine and Rohypnol.

Penalties for possession

Possession of PCP, LSD, methamphetamine, amphetamine, and psilocybin mushrooms carries up to $5,000 in fines and up to a year in jail for the first offense. Subsequent offenses are Class I felonies that result in fines of up to $10,000 and up to 3.5 years in jail. All narcotic drugs in Schedule I or II are also subject to these penalties. Cannabis is an exception that results in a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail for the first offense.

Types of possession

Law enforcement in Wisconsin can arrest you for either actual or constructive possession. Actual possession means that you are carrying the substance in your pocket or backpack or otherwise holding it on your person. Constructive possession means that you kept the drugs in your home or vehicle and planned to either distribute or use them.

The circumstances of your case significantly influence the penalties that you may receive. For example, hiring or using a child younger than 17 to manufacture, sell or distribute drugs is a Class H felony that carries up to $10,000 in fines and up to six years in prison. All Wisconsin drug offenders may receive a license suspension for six months to five years.

Eyewitness lineups can lead to wrongful arrests

Eyewitness lineups can lead to wrongful arrests

A Wisconsin man was released from prison after spending 20 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Even after 16 alibi witnesses testified to having seen the man with his family close to the time the crime was committed, a jury found him guilty after the victim chose the innocent man out of a photo lineup.

Eyewitness misidentification is a huge issue for people in Wisconsin and throughout the nation. The multitude of factors that affect the accuracy of the ID makes it difficult to believe judges and jurors would convict based off this unreliable form of identification. Yet thousands of people are sent to prison based on eyewitness identifications alone. The Innocence Project has helped to exonerate more than 360 people, after extensive testing of DNA evidence showed they were actually innocent of committing a crime. Eyewitness misidentification was involved in at least 71% of these cases. Why is this identification method so unreliable?

Environmental factors at the scene of the crime can influence a witness’s ability to choose the perpetrator from a lineup. These include the following:

  • The amount of light present at the crime scene when the incident occurred
  • The distance the witness was standing from the actual incident
  • The amount of time that has lapsed from when the incident took place
  • Whether the perpetrator used any disguises
  • Whether the perpetrator’s race is different than the witness
  • Whether a weapon was used during the crime

It is essential that the lineup administrator does not know about the crime so he or she does not lead the witness in any way. Furthermore, the lineup should have more than one filler who matches the suspect’s description. Witnesses should never feel pressured to make a selection, and told that the suspect may not be present in the lineup at all. Finally, officers should tape the entire procedure so the judge and/or jurors have access to the process. If you or your someone beloved facing such type issues then contact our Madison, WI criminal defense attorney at Mays Law Office, LLC