Frequently Asked Questions About the Consequences of a Criminal Conviction
At Just Criminal Law, we help people facing a variety of criminal in Wyoming and South Dakota. While those charges vary widely and every case is different, there are some questions about the consequences of a criminal conviction that come up frequently.
If you have been arrested and are facing criminal charges in Wyoming, you should expect to show up in court on several occasions:
- Arraignment or Initial Appearance: Charges are read and an initial plea is entered (not guilty you plan to hire a lawyer).
- Indictment or Preliminary Hearing: Only in felony cases (and Class 1 misdemeanors in South Dakota), these hearings are held before a grand jury (indictment) or judge (preliminary hearing) to determine if there is "probable cause" that a crime was committed by the defendant. In Wyoming, this must happen within 10 days of your Initial Appearance if you are in jail or 20 days if you have been released on bail. In South Dakota the deadlines are 15 days in custody or 45 days on bail.
- Plea Bargaining: The prosecutor and your criminal defense attorney meet to discuss possible pleas and exchange information. If you decide to take a plea bargain, you will be required to appear before the judge and make a statement.
- Jury or Bench Trial: The prosecutor and your attorney present evidence of your guilt or innocence. You have a right to a jury trial if you are facing jail time, or have been charged with drunk driving in Wyoming. If you waive that right, or if your misdemeanor involves no jail time, your case will be decided by a judge.
- Pre-Sentence Investigation: In felony cases, you will be interviewed by the probation department and a report will be prepared for the judge.
- Sentencing Hearing: If you are charged with a misdemeanor this may happen immediately after your plea bargain or trial. For felony cases, there is a separate hearing. The judge will review the circumstances of your case and impose a penalty, which may start immediately after the hearing.
The judge will evaluate several factors to decide your sentence, including:
- Criminal history
- Family support
- Employment history
- Social history
- Circumstances of the case
- Risk of danger to others
- Risk of future alcohol or substance abuse
In misdemeanor cases, the decision is made without independent investigation, and is at the judge's discretion up to a maximum by the law. In felony cases, a pre-sentence investigation report will result in sentencing guidelines, which are a range of possible jail or prison times. The court may also consider alternative programs like inpatient substance abuse treatment or probation. Your criminal defense attorney will argue on your behalf to help reduce your sentence.
If you are convicted of a felony, you may lose certain rights:
- To possess or own firearms
- To vote
- To hold public office.
You may also lose your freedom during the jail or prison sentence, and may have additional restrictions placed on you as terms of your probation. Felons are also required to submit to DNA testing.
The terms of your probation, including how long it lasts, will be laid out in the order of probation, which describes what you are required to do. The most basic terms of probation require a criminal defendant to:
- Meet regularly with your probation officer by phone or in person
- Appear at all court hearings
- Pay fines and restitution (money to victims)
- Not travel out of state without permission of your probation officer
- Follow all local, state, and federal laws
- Avoid illegal drug use.
Depending on the charge and the circumstances in your case you may also be required to:
- Avoid contact with the victim
- Avoid places connected with the crime
- Take drug and alcohol testing
- Attend substance abuse programs
- Attend mental health programs.
A criminal conviction for a sex offense often means you need to register as a sex offender. Sex offenders must provide law enforcement with the following:
- Name, including aliases
- Date and place of birth
- Social security number
- Place of employment
- Date and place of conviction;
- Crime convicted
- Schools where employed or attending classes
- License plate number and description of each vehicle owned or operated
- DNA sample
It is up to the sex offender to keep this information up to date. In Wyoming, registration lasts for 10 years unless the conviction is aggravated or a second offense.
Information regarding a sex offender's residence, place of employment, and other details are made part of a public online registry. The state may also send out notification to neighbors if the court believes there is a risk of repeated offense.
You can ask the court to expunge a conviction after your sentence is complete. These records do not disappear, but they are removed from public records and only used for court purposes. Whether you qualify depends on the state and the charge.
Your record can be expunged if you are a juvenile with a non-violent misdemeanor or ordinance conviction who is turning 18 with no other convictions. For adults misdemeanors, you must:
- Have a misdemeanor conviction for assault, battery, reckless endangerment, or breach of the peace that doesn't involve a firearm
- Wait 5 years after your sentence is completed
- Never have been convicted of the same crime on another occasion
- Never have had another conviction expunged
If you have a felony conviction you must:
- Have a felony conviction that is non-violent, doesn't involve a firearm, and doesn't require sex registration
- Wait 10 years after your sentence is complete
- Never have been convicted of any other felony
Your criminal conviction can be expunged if you:
- Wait 10 years after the offense occurred
- Are at least 75 years old (for felonies)
- Have no other convictions
- Were not convicted of a Class A, B, 1 or 2 felony
- Undergo an alcohol evaluation and submit records of recommendation (for DUI convictions)
Get Help From a Criminal Defense Attorney
The consequences of a criminal conviction can be life-changing. Don't go into it alone. Call us at Just Criminal Law, in Gillette, Wyoming, at 307-686-6556 or contact us online to schedule your personalized case review and strategy session with our dedicated client care specialist.