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A guide on key terms throughout this site.

Law Enforcement


"A crime is conduct which is prohibited by state law and punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. Conduct punishable only by a forfeiture is not a crime. (Wisc. Stat. 939.12)"


Act of detaining a person in legal custody in response to a charge that the person committed an offense in a particular jurisdiction. This includes notification of charges and date and time to appear in court or for processing such as by summons, order-in or citation (when issued by an officer). Arrests are typically not documented until the point of booking or issuance of a citation or summons.

Includes state statutes violations, ordinances that could be criminal, and citations that are criminal. Arrests do not include referrals from LE to the DA to review for potential charges without a booking or citation being issued directly to the individual (until the person is fingerprinted as part of the initial appearance) and warrants that have not resulted in an arrest.


A referral occurs when law enforcement alleges a law the defendant has violated; charges are often initiated through a booking or citation, which is then submitted to the prosecutor's office

In custody

When an individual is being detained by law enforcement, the court, or another legal entity and is not free to leave.


The process of collecting data to detain an individual into custody for criminal or non-criminal offenses or holds. Bookings for criminal offenses involve the collection of photographs, fingerprints, and demographic information. Adapted from Wisc. Stats. 165.83(2).

District Attorney

Diversion/ Deferred Prosecution Agreement

A written agreement outlining the diversion or deferred prosecution requirements.

Pre-charge diversion

When the District Attorney withholds filing charges and the individual agrees to complete certain terms of a diversion agreement. If the individual satisfactorily completes the terms of the agreement, the District Attorney either does not file charges or files reduced charges. If the individual does not satisfactorily complete the terms of the agreement, the District Attorney issues the criminal charges and proceeds with formal prosecution.

Post-charge Deferred prosecution

When the District Attorney files charges and then reaches an agreement with an individual to complete a deferred prosecution program. If the individual satisfactorily completes this program, the formal charges are either dismissed or reduced. If the individual does not satisfactorily complete the program, the District Attorney continues with formal prosecution.

Prosecutorial Charge

The law that the prosecutor alleges the defendant has violated in a formal criminal complaint or information

A formal accusation filed by the prosecutor's office that a specific person has committed a specific crime, also referred to as filing a criminal complaint or information.


"Any crime that is not a felony is a misdemeanor. Typically punishable by a fine or time in jail. Wisc. Stat. 939.60"


"A crime punishable by imprisonment in the Wisconsin state prisons. Wisc. Stat. 939.60"

Case Process, Disposition, and Sentencing


The options a defendant charged with a criminal offense can enter at arraignment (i.e. guilty, not guilty, no contest, not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect). 971.06

Plea Agreement

"A formal, proposed resolution to the case that is agreed upon by the defendant and the prosecutor and resolves the case without proceeding to trial."


Termination of a criminal charge by the court that has been issued by the prosecutor


A judgment of the court, based either on the decision of a jury or judge, that the defendant is guilty of the crime for which he/she was tried or pled. Or A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.


Confinement in jail, prison or other facility


Hearing in which the punishment and/or terms of supervision of a defendant is announced. This occurs after a finding of guilty by a jury or the Court.