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The right to a jury trial is arguably your single most important right.  In all OWI cases (except refusal proceedings) you have the right to have your case tried to a jury.  

In a criminal OWI case (OWI-2nd or subsequent, or causing injury or death by OWI), the right to a jury trial is automatic.  In criminal cases, there is nothing that a suspect must do to obtain the jury trial.  The jury will consist of 12 people who must return an unanimous verdict.  


In a civil case, you must request a jury trial.  The request must be in writing, and must be accompanied by the statutorily prescribed fee.  Thus, unlike in a criminal case, you must take affirmative steps to exercise your right to a jury trial in a civil case.  You have 10 days from your initial appearance in court to file a written request for the jury trial and pay the appropriate fees.  In all civil cases, you will be required to pay a fee of $36.00.  However, you might also have to pay the bond amount on the citation.  This could be between $650-$900.  Whether you will have to pay the bond amount will depend on the jurisdiction in which the case is pending.  If the case starts in circuit court, then you will only have to pay the $36.00 jury fee.  However, when the case originates in municipal court, many municipalities require payment of the bond amount.  NOTE: That when you request a jury trial in municipal court, the municipality will transfer the case to circuit court.  All jury trials are held at the circuit court (county) level.  

Whether your case will originate in the circuit or municipal court will depend on the jurisdiction of the officer that arrested you and the nature of the offense.  All sheriff department and state patrol arrests will originate in circuit court.  Likewise, all criminal OWI offenses start in the circuit court, regardless of the jurisdiction of the officer that arrested you.  However, in OWI-1st offense cases, where a municipal, village, city or town officer arrested you, the case will originate in the municipal, village, city or town court.  One caveat to this is that some municipalities do not have municipal courts.  In those situations, the case starts in circuit court.   


While the jury trial is one of your most important rights, in civil cases (OWI 1st), there might be strategic reasons not to demand it.  This only applies when the case originiates in municipal court.  Demanding a jury trial, will get the case transferred to circuit court.  When this happens, the case will be added to the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Program (WI CCAP) data base.  The CCAP data base is open and easily accessible to the public.  Anyone with a computer and the internet can enter an individuals name and check his prior record.  I know that prospective employers use this all the time.  Thus, if the goal is to attempt to keep the OWI charge out of the public eye, it might make sense in certain OWI-1st cases to not demand the jury trial.  
 

These considerations are not relevant in a OWI-2nd or subsequent case. That is because in a OWI-2nd or greater situation, the case information will automatically be entered on WI CCAP. 

In order to determine if you should demand the jury trial, your best bet is to immedaitely contact a qualified attorney to discuss those strategies.