The justice process begins at the time of a crime report. Criminal defense typically begins when you are under investigation or at the time of your arrest.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice has a detailed flow-chart graphic about the felony process. Please read on for some explanations of important steps.
1. Police investigate
Police investigations might be as simple as visiting the site of a domestic disturbance someone reports. They could also be extensive, multi-agency investigations of financial documents and computer systems.
2. District attorney analyzes police reports
District attorneys work for the state. One of their first jobs is to look at police reports and determine whether a conviction is possible. They might also attempt to convince you to accept a deal at this point.
3. The court examines initial evidence and statements
Before trial, the court gets to see the evidence and hear statements from attorneys. There is a possibility of dismissal at this point if the state is not able to prove probable cause.
4. The court administrates a trial
The trial process is complex. There are many different procedures, schedules and so on. However, defense basically involves presenting arguments, explaining evidence and protecting your rights.
5. The judge issues a sentence
The sentencing stage happens after the court decides whether the evidence warrants a conviction. You might receive penalties. There might be options after sentencing, such as bringing the case to a court of appeals.
Please be aware that this is a very simple look at the justice process. People have written entire books about single elements of each of these stages.
Beyond knowledge, experience is also often important. Some criminal defense attorneys devote their careers to single items: sentencing, appeals, trial litigation and so on.