In Wisconsin, crimes that are punishable by a sentence of imprisonment in the state prison are considered to be felonies. Other crimes are considered to be misdemeanors. Felonies are broken into nine classifications within the state statutes; classifications are labeled A through I.

In most cases, the classification of the felony will be included in the charge. Because the various classifications have differing maximum consequences, it’s essential for anyone facing a criminal defense situation to understand the levels. According to Wisconsin state statutes, a Class A felony carries a penalty of life in prison. A Class I felony carries a maximum sentence of 3 years and six months in prison, or a maximum fine of $10,000 or both.

Penalties grow more serious as you move from I to A. For example, a Class F felony carries a maximum sentence of 12 years and six months in prison, a maximum fine of $25,000 or both. A Class B felony, on the other hand, carries a maximum sentence of 60 years. Within each classification, specific crimes may also impact how sentencing occurs should a person be convicted of charges.

Because the level of felony charge has such a great impact on sentencing, criminal defense strategy may be to work toward a reduction in charges. Deciding whether to seek a complete dismissal of charges or to work with a prosecutor on reducing charges is a big step for any defendant and one that should not be made lightly. By working with someone knowledgeable about the Wisconsin court system–and who may already have relationships with prosecutors–defendants may be able to increase the chance of the most positive outcome in a case.

Source: Wisconsin State Legislature, “Classification of felonies” Dec. 23, 2014