Category Archives: Criminal Defense

Starting the Recovery Process After Domestic Violence and Abuse

With last month being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s important for us to remember that this issue impacts millions of people every day of the year. Those who have suffered at the hands of someone close to them need protection, support and a healthy road to recovery.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) estimates as many as one in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe, physical violence at some point in their lives. The numbers are even higher when factoring in verbal abuse. These attacks leave deep scars and lasting effects, and true recovery can take years.

Finding the strength to overcome

For many victims of domestic violence and abuse, the journey to a better life starts the moment they recognize they are in danger. Staying with a friend, confiding in a relative or speaking with an Appleton domestic violence lawyer can help victims break free from abuse.

This can be a frightening process. Because a person’s self-worth, confidence, trust and happiness are all targeted by an abuser, it’s difficult to muster the courage to seek help.

Thankfully, there are many resources designed specifically to protect victims of abuse. According to current data, there are more than 15 domestic violence and abuse shelters, programs and emergency hotlines in the Appleton, Neenah, Oshkosh and Oneida areas.This includes Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs, which operates right here in Appleton.

Seeking assistance from a domestic violence lawyer in Appleton is also an option. Not only can a qualified legal professional help you secure a protection order, but you’ll also receive guidance on the local networks and resources that can keep you safe.

Healing physically and mentally

Putting distance between yourself and an abuser is not often enough to start the healing process. It takes the compassion of others to truly begin putting the turmoil behind you.This can take many forms:

  • Medical professionals can help mend broken bones, stitch up wounds or provide general medical attention. In cases of sexual abuse, it’s paramount to get medical attention as soon as possible to ensure the safety of the victim and to corroborate police reports or accusations.
  • Counselors can help victims realize abuse is occurring and put things in perspective, allowing them to begin the recovery process. This is critically important for victims who justify their attackers’ abuse or who blame themselves for their situation. Many times, just being able to talk to someone is incredibly beneficial.
  • Survivors are people who know what you’ve been through because they have been there themselves. Talking to people who have overcome abuse can help victims see the light at the end of the tunnel and boost their confidence about their future. It may also be the start of new, healthy friendships that re-cement a person’s self-worth.

Domestic abuse from a loved one takes its toll in so many forms. That’s why it’s so important for victims to receive care and attention as they work to address everything they’ve experienced.

Seeking closure and finality

Depending on the person and the issues involved, recovery from domestic abuse can take months or years. No matter how long it takes to regain a sense of confidence, it’s important to seek legal protection from abuse without delay. Prosecuting an attacker is the ultimate form of domestic abuse defense because it ensures that person cannot continue the pattern of violence against others.

It can be downright terrifying to take an abuser to trial. Having to give testimony in the same room as someone you fear is something no person wants to experience. And, with evidence and previous testimony on trial, it can make victims feel as if they are reliving the worst moments of their lives. However, it also allows victims to truly free themselves from their abusers and experience closure.

Legal action can also be an important way for victims to protect themselves. Being able to publicly show an abuser for who they are gives victims the ultimate protection. It allows you to get on with your life and overcome all that has happened to you.

At Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, we do everything in our power to help victims of domestic violence and abuse on their road to recovery. Whether you are taking your first step toward separating from your abuser or you are ready to build a legal case, we are here to help.

DWI in Wisconsin: What Are the Consequences?

There are more than 24,000 drunk driving convictions in Wisconsin each year, according to the state Department of Transportation. But not all cases of operating a vehicle while intoxicated–OWI, the Wisconsin equivalent of DUI or DWI in other states–are treated the same by the legal system. In fact, Wisconsin is relatively lenient with first-time offenders, although the penalties will escalate for each successive OWI conviction.

First Offenses in Wisconsin

If you have no prior drunk driving record, a first OWI conviction will generally result in a fine and a suspension of your driver’s license. You will not face any jail time. The judge will fine you between $150 and $300, and you will lose your license for 6 to 9 months.

However, if there was a minor–anyone under the age of 16–in the vehicle with you at the time of your OWI arrest, you can be sentenced to jail, for a period of anywhere between 5 days and 6 months. The maximum fines and license suspension period also increase, to $1,100 and 18 months, respectively.

Second Offenses

The penalties for a second offense largely depend on when your first offense occurred. If you have a prior OWI conviction within a 10-year period, you are facing jail time of between 5 days and 6 months. Otherwise, the second offense has the same penalties as a first offense. For example, if you were convicted of OWI in 2002, and convicted a second time in 2017–more than 10 years later–you would only face a maximum possible $300 fine and a license suspension.

Third and Subsequent Offenses

Once you get to a third OWI conviction, you are facing at least 45 days in jail. Starting with the fourth conviction, Wisconsin treats OWI as a felony. Here is a brief rundown of the felony classifications and penalty ranges:

  • 4th offense – Class H felony, punishable by 60 days to 6 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
  • 5th-6th offenses – Class G felony, punishable by 6 months to 10 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
  • 7th-9th offenses – Class F felony, punishable by 3 years to 12 years, 6 months, in jail and a $25,000 fine.
  • 10th and all succeeding offenses – Class E felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years in jail and a $50,000 fine.

From the third OWI conviction forward, your driver’s license will also be suspended at least 2 to 3 years, which will be in addition to the length of any prison term.

OWI Involving Death or Injury to Other People

All of the drunk driving penalties described above apply to cases where nobody else was injured. If you cause injury to while operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, even if it is a first offense, you will face up to 1 year in jail and lose your driver’s license for 1 to 2 years, in addition to the length of your confinement. For second and succeeding OWI’s involving bodily injury, you can be charged with a Class H felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 6 years.

Additionally, if an OWI causes “great bodily harm,” it is considered a class F felony, and the maximum prison term more than doubles from 6 years to 12 years, 6 months. And drunk driving that results in the death of another–legally, “Homicide While OWI”–is a Class D felony. This carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years. But if the driver has any prior OWI convictions, Homicide While OWI is elevated to a Class C felony, which can lead to a prison term of up to 40 years.

Penalties for Refusing Chemical Tests for OWI

When police arrest you for OWI they will typically request you take a blood, breath, or urine test to confirm your blood-alcohol level is above the legal limit. By law you are deemed to give “implied consent” for such tests. But constitutionally, you have the right to refuse to give evidence that may serve to incriminate you.

You cannot be fined or sent to jail for refusing a chemical test, even if you have multiple prior OWI convictions. But the State of Wisconsin can–and will–automatically suspend your driver’s license if you refuse. Since license suspensions are administrative actions in this context, rather than criminal penalties, they are not considered a violation of your constitutional rights.

Do You Need Help From an Appleton Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Any drunk driving arrest is a serious matter, regardless of whether or not you have a prior OWI record. Given the potential consequences of a conviction, it is critical you work with a qualified Appleton DUI lawyer. Contact Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC, today if you need immediate legal assistance.


The Fox Valley in Northeast Wisconsin is a beautiful and peaceful place to live. However, we are not immune from the scams, identity thefts, and other crimes that plague bigger cities. Our local police departments are professional and dedicated, but they often cannot help victims, because the crimes are committed by scammers from out of state or from half way around the world. Prevention is the best policy.

At Hammett, Bellin & Oswald Law Firm we are dedicated to serving the Fox Valley and that includes representing victims of car crashes, negligence, and other injuries. We also try to assist the community in staying safe and protecting individuals against unnecessary injuries and damages. To that end, we are sharing this comprehensive summary of the many scams and thefts plaguing the Fox Valley. Anyone concerned about protecting themselves or their loved ones should take a moment and review the summary brochure.

A special thanks to the Town of Menasha/Fox Crossing police department for sharing this information and for keeping the public informed. To speak with someone here at HBO Law Firm, please contact us through our website or call our toll free number, and if we can help, we can set up a conference at our Neenah or Appleton locations.


Local police in Fox Crossing/Menasha are reporting another scam in the area. This one involves a phone call claiming a family member is in trouble. It can be a person posing as a family member. They ask for things like iTunes gift cards, because they need a car to get home or some other excuse. The scammer will claim that there is a deal through Enterprise so the family member can rent a car and get home. They claim that if the target purchases a number of such gifts, say $1,500.00, then the rental company will give the family member a rental vehicle as part of the promotion. Once the target purchases the gift cards, another scammer posing as an attorney will call asking for the gift card numbers.

The Village of Fox Crossing/Town of Menasha are very community oriented and they do a fantastic job warning residents when the scams pop up. These scams can take many forms. In an effort to assist the police and ensure the safety of local residents, we are helping distribute the police department’s warning sign. Hopefully we can get these distributed throughout Appleton, Neenah, Fox Crossing, Menasha and the entire Fox Valley. We at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald are all Fox Valley residents, and we will continue to blog about these scams to protect our community.

Scam Image - HBO

When to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

Knowing when it’s time to fight back with a criminal defense attorney

If you enjoy watching crime dramas, you’ve probably seen one in which a defendant forgoes professional representation and attempts to fight the charges against him on his own. While this is common in film and TV, it’s much less common in real life. This is because hiring a lawyer puts you in the best possible position to secure a favorable outcome in your case.

What Do Criminal Defense Attorneys Do?

Criminal defense attorneys have several important duties. Contrary to popular belief, the act of arguing a case before a judge is just one of the many responsibilities that a competent lawyer brings to the table. The broad outlines of an attorney’s work include:

• Understanding the circumstances of your case
• Analyzing the evidence against you as well as evidence that supports your side of the story
• Understanding how legal statutes and precedent affect your case
• Making the strongest possible case for your innocence

Building a Case From the Ground Up

In some cases, evidence is easy to come by. In such instances, your attorney will work tirelessly to analyze and present it in the best possible light. In cases that feature a lack of evidence to support your claim, your attorney will seek sources of evidence that may have been overlooked as well as potential witnesses who have yet to come forward.

What About Appeals?

If your case ends unfavorably, you may be entitled to appeal the verdict to a higher court. Under these circumstances, it’s very important to work with an attorney who has experience with the criminal appeals process. In an appeal, your lawyer will evaluate existing evidence as well as new information that comes to light before presenting it in compelling fashion to the court.

What Are the Consequences of Failing to Hire an Attorney?

Although the media is rife with stories of defendants representing themselves in court, this strategy just isn’t as likely to produce a favorable outcome as you imagine. The potential drawbacks to self-representation include:

• Lack of courtroom experience among most defendants
• Fewer resources to track down hidden evidence and witnesses
• Lack of knowledge of legal precedent and statutes
• Higher probability of an unfavorable outcome in your case

Find an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Neenah and Appleton, WI

If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s important to understand the gravity of your situation. However, it’s just as key to realize that it’s possible for you to beat the charges against you. Hiring a competent criminal defense attorney puts you in the best possible position to do so. If you’re interested in learning more about defense representation in your specific case, call us or fill out the online contact form.

5 Long-Term Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

Why it pays to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney

Not all criminal cases are created equal. Some charges come with life-altering penalties that could result in years of incarceration or state supervision. Others feature a more lenient penalty phase. However, all criminal convictions have certain consequences that defendants would do well to understand and anticipate. These are five of the most important.

1. Your Charges and Conviction Become Part of the Public Record

As with many other legal matters, your criminal conviction will become a matter of public record for years. Anyone who wishes to access it is free to do so. Although it may be possible to conceal a conviction after a significant amount of time has passed, this is a separate, complicated area of the law.

2. Potential Limits to Employment Opportunities

Although there are some protections in place for job-seeking individuals with criminal records, employers have a great deal of latitude to terminate or refuse employment to workers who fit this description. Additionally, your conviction will appear on your criminal background check for years to come. If a job opportunity requires you to submit to a background check or obtain a license or certification that isn’t available to individuals with a criminal record, you could find yourself at a disadvantage.

3. Problems Finding Suitable Housing

In many cases, a criminal conviction can severely restrict your ability to find suitable housing. Whether they’re explicitly stated or informal, many landlords have policies against renting to individuals on probation and parole. In other cases, individuals with a criminal record may not be eligible for housing subsidies and other assistance that could make the difference between a subpar living arrangement and a comfortable home.

4. Student Loans and Other Financial Issues

Depending on the nature of the crime, your conviction could disqualify you from receiving federal student loans or other forms of financial aid. The federal government regularly updates its rules for aid, so it’s best to check with the Department of Education on this matter.

5. Privileges of Citizenship: Voting, Military Service, and SNAP

Depending on its severity, a criminal conviction could disqualify you from many of the privileges associated with American citizenship, including voting and military service. It may also render you ineligible or limit your access to assistance programs like SNAP.

Find an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Neenah and Appleton, WI

Are you facing a criminal case? Whether you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, it’s important that you do right by your family and seek competent legal assistance at your earliest convenience. We stand ready to provide aggressive and compassionate representation on your behalf and ensure that you get fair treatment under the law. To learn more about how we can help you with your pending criminal case, call us or fill out our online contact form.