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What is the difference between a crime and an ordinance violation in Wisconsin?

Ordinance Violation or Criminal Offense?

In all counties, including Fond du Lac and Winnebago County, Wisconsin state law provides the answer to this question.  In Wisconsin, a statute numbered 939.12 explains in simple language the difference. A “crime” is defined as conduct that is prohibited by state law and that is punishable by a fine or imprisonment or both. A person can be sentenced directly to jail for a criminal conviction. Conduct that is punishable only by a forfeiture (fine) is not a crime. One thing to remember though is that sometimes a failure to pay a forfeiture or fine on an ordinance can still result in “sanctions”, including jail, for failure to pay those fines. However, jail is not a direct consequence of an ordinance violation.

As the definition above states, a crime is prohibited by “state” law. Ordinances are issued for conduct that is prohibited by a municipality, such as a city, town, village, or borough, which are a political subdivisions of the State of Wisconsin. These municipalities are local governments in a defined geographical area.   Often times municipal ordinances mimic or reference state law. The Wisconsin Law Library provides online access to nearly half of Wisconsin’s municipalities and counties that have made some or all of their ordinances available online (

A blog post by attorney Catherine Block.  Attorney Block practices in the areas of Criminal, Juvenile, Guardianship, Family Law, and can handle local Ordinances as well. Please reach out to Attorney Block at or 920-231-0699.

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The Importance of Understanding How to Take Title

The law of real property is rife with complicated language intended to answers basic questions. “What if I want to add someone as an owner of my property?” seems like a simple enough inquiry, but to a real estate lawyer, answering that question requires a clear understanding of their client’s objective.

Consider a man, Albert Abertson, who owns a home in his name only who wants to add someone else’s name to the title. He has a consultation with a lawyer about how this can be accomplished. To his surprise, instead of being handed a simple form and walking out the door after five minutes with a shiny new title, the lawyer begins to ask questions.

Lola Lawyer, Attorney at Law, asks him “who do you want to add to the title?” Considering this a reasonable enough question, he replies “Bob Bobson.” Ms. Lawyer follows up, “and who is Bob Bobson to you?” Now Albert has always been told to mind his own business and shifts in his chair, uncomfortable with delving too much further into his personal affairs.

This is not being Ms. Lawyer’s first encounter with a reticent client. She senses Alfred’s discomfort and explains, “Albert, the reason I need to know is because it will help me advise you on several important matters. Did you know that adding someone’s name to the title can impact your obligations as a homeowner, have tax consequences, and affect how you plan your estate?” If Alfred is able to let his guard down and answer Ms. Lawyer’s questions, he will be a much more satisfied client long-term.

Alfred will learn about the difference between being a tenant in common, a joint tenant, and taking as marital property. He will learn about the tax implications if Bob doesn’t pay him anything to be added to the title, as well as the impact this could have on Medicaid benefits. He will learn about sharing liability with Bob, as well as the possibility that Bob’s creditors could come after the property.

This is just one example of how seemingly simple questions relating to property can have complicated answers implicating a wide variety of legal topics.

A blog post by Attorney Scott Engstrom.  If you have Property Law questions or require representation, please contact Attorney Engstrom at 920-739-9900.  Mr. Engstrom serves clients throughout Northeast Wisconsin with Offices in the Oshkosh Area and the Appleton Area.   Call now.

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What is a prenuptial agreement and should you have one?

Do you know someone in Wisconsin who is engaged or married? Have you talked to them about a prenuptial agreement? Attorneys from Oshkosh and the Fox Valley can guide you in the right direction. A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract that two people negotiate and sign with a view toward what would happen if the marriage ends by divorce, separation or death. Before getting married, and even after, you should consider your legal options. It is commonly mistaken that prenuptial agreements, otherwise known as “prenups,” are only for those who are wealthy. No matter how much money or assets you have, a prenup is in fact a useful tool that can protect you and your (future) spouse.

There are many elements to be considered in a prenuptial agreement. In Wisconsin, if you and your spouse acquire property during marriage, a judge will apply statutory guidelines to divide that property in the event of a divorce. Prenuptial agreements can also contain provisions about child support and custody. If a couple divorces and decides to abide by the terms of the agreement, then they can self enforce the provision on child custody and support. However, if the parties end up disagreeing, a judge will disregard the portions that refer to custody and support in the agreement. Our skilled Fox Valley and Oshkosh attorneys are here to help you.

A prenup can provide a way of avoiding lengthy or expensive legal disputes, pre-determining the division of a couple’s property, including things such as land, retirement accounts, jewelry, or automobiles. A prenuptial agreement can be applied to any couple. If one or both of you are bringing a lot of debt into the marriage, one or both of you are bringing property into the marriage, one of you is much wealthier or poorer than the other, or if one or both of you is remarrying or has children, getting a prenup is of greater importance.  Each spouse should retain his or her own attorney to review and negotiate the prenuptial agreement. You and your spouse cannot share a lawyer, or the agreement won’t be legally enforceable. It is permissible for one party to be represented by an attorney, even if the other party is not. After you are married, you can still revise a prenuptial agreement and it will be called a postnuptial agreement. Both parties have to agree to the changes, and the new agreement must be in writing.

If you have any questions about whether you should enter into a prenuptial agreement, contact a family law attorney here at Petit & Dommershausen, located in Menasha and Oshkosh, for advice. You can reach our Fox Valley attorneys at 920-739-9900 or our Oshkosh attorneys at 920-231-0699.

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Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): Penalties and Consequences in Wisconsin

The possession of marijuana and substances containing any amount of THC remains illegal in Wisconsin. Therefore, even if you have obtained a legal prescription of medical marijuana from another state, it becomes illegal when you bring it into Wisconsin. Under the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Act, THC is considered a Schedule I Controlled Substance in the same category as LSD, heroin and PCP. This classification makes the penalties for marijuana possession in Wisconsin sizable and includes damaging repercussions. Attorneys in Appleton and Oshkosh are here to help with these serious offenses.

For a first time offense of THC possession in Wisconsin: Charged as a misdemeanor but still carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail. Every subsequent conviction is then considered a Class I felony with penalties up to $10,000 and 3 years, 6 months in jail. It’s also important to note that with every drug conviction in the state of Wisconsin, a suspension of driving privileges for up to 5 years is included. If you are a college student and charged with drug possession in Wisconsin you are at risk for losing federal student grants and loans. If a THC possession offense occurred within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, school bus or various other building, you could be required to complete 100 hours of community service in addition to the above penalties. There are other charges you could face if the drug possession offense occurred while you were driving or if you were in an illegal possession of a firearm at the time of your arrest. Fox Valley and Oshkosh attorneys here at Petit & Dommershausen are available to help.

In addition to the penalties one could face with possession of THC, there are also penalties for cultivating or selling this illegal drug. These punishments vary according to the amount possessed, grown, or sold and the penalty increases for sales to minors or if the sale occurs within a drug free school zone.

If you or a family member has been charged with a marijuana possession or delivery offense in the Appleton, Oshkosh or Fox Valley area, consult an experienced Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer here at Petit & Dommershausen as soon as possible. You can reach skilled Fox Valley attorneys at 920-739-9900 or our outstanding Oshkosh attorneys at 920-231-0699.

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Mile of Music 5

Petit & Dommershausen, SC Welcomes Mile of Music

Please find the Mile 5 Schedule information here! Contact the law firm here!

The Attorneys and Staff at P&D would like to extend a warm welcome to all the artists and music fans attending the 2017 Mile of Music.  Many of the Attorneys and Staff may be found at the various venues enjoying all that Mile 5 has to offer again this year.  P&D is a law firm in your community and a part of your community.  We are happy to serve you and your legal needs.


Mile of Music

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Is your criminal conviction in Wisconsin stopping you from becoming a police officer?

It is common for people to have criminal backgrounds. In fact nearly one-third of American adults have been arrested by age 23. However, not all convictions prevent you from obtaining a job in law enforcement, especially in Wisconsin. While each jurisdiction and agency has specific regulations, generally speaking, individuals with felony, and certain misdemeanor convictions/arrests will be disqualified from becoming a law enforcement officer. The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (Wis. Stat. 111.321, 111.322, 111.335) prohibits discrimination based on a conviction record unless the circumstances surrounding the conviction are substantially related to the circumstances of the particular job. This could mean those who have been arrested or convicted of less severe misdemeanors still have an opportunity.


The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board requires that candidates:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license
  • Possess a two-year associate degree, or 60 credit hours from a technical school or other law enforcement major (within five years of employment). Fox Valley technical college and UW-Oshkosh have criminal justice programs!
  • Have never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony
  • Are at least 18 years of age
  • Undergo a thorough background check and fingerprinting
  • Pass a physical examination from a licensed physician regarding physical fitness levels
  • Pass a psychological examination by a licensed psychiatrist


Still have questions? Our skilled Fox Valley and Oshkosh attorneys are here to help you. Individual departments additionally have their own guidelines. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate the criminal justice system to keep your career options open in the future.


The specific convictions vary from state to state but the types of offenses that may disqualify a person from becoming a police officer include the following:

  • Use of a controlled substance, other than marijuana, at any time
  • Use of marijuana within the past three to five years
  • Sale of any controlled substance at any time
  • A felony conviction
  • Revocation or suspension of driver’s license in the past three years
  • Conviction for a sexual offense


If you have questions, you should reach out to our Fox Valley attorneys at 920-739-9900 or our Oshkosh attorneys at 920-231-0699.

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Preventing Local Governments from Controlling Your Farming Operation

Anyone who has ever worked in the farming industry will tell you that the only thing you can count on from day to day is uncertainty. Farming truly is, one of the hardest professions anyone can enter, between the early mornings, long days, uncertain weather, and the ever changing rules. It takes a truly committed person to be successful in the agricultural industry.

As people have started to move from the city to rural America, we have begun to see a clash between the expectations of urban Americans and rural America. Let’s face it, farming is a dirty and dangerous job, that doesn’t mix well with the lifestyle of the average urban American. These differences have caused battles to be fought between farmers and their neighbors across America.

Recently, there has been an attempt to change laws, to undermine the ability of farmers to make a living, especially at the local level. In the past decade many local communities have begun passing zoning and other ordinances that are specifically designed to undermine local farmers. They have done this by putting restrictions on local farmers, that restrict their ability to run a successful operation. These ordinances can range from a restriction on the number of animals an operation can have, a maximum size of equipment allowed on roads, prohibitions on the spread of animal waste and the use of eminent domain to take property from farmers to encourage urban development. These ordinances, have had a significant impact on the ability of farmers to operate across this great state, however, the opponents of farming have not stopped there. They have used zoning and nuisance laws to prevent or remove farming operations altogether.

If you are experiencing any of these issues in your local community, don’t try to challenge, or fix these issues by yourself. Instead hire a passionate and experienced attorney who can help protect your rights and the rights of farmers everywhere. When it comes to protecting the rights of farmers, no battle is too small.

Wesley Kottke is an attorney at Petit & Dommershausen, SC.  Before becoming an attorney, he spent his time milking cows and working in the fields on his family’s 1500-acre dairy farm. This experience gives him a unique prospective, that allows him to truly understand the problems, and issues facing farmers today. Attorney Wesley Kottke, is eager to put his knowledge of the law and the agriculture industry to work for you. Attorney Kottke serves Green Bay, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac and the rest of the great state of Wisconsin. He can be reached at (920) 231-0699.

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My spouse is having an affair, can I file for divorce? Or maybe my spouse isn’t having affair, can I still file?

You absolutely can file for divorce in either circumstance, but infidelity (aka cheating spouse syndrome) is not a requirement for divorce in Wisconsin. Of course, infidelity can be the reason a spouse files for divorce, but the only required basis to file for divorce in Wisconsin is that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

When a marriage is irretrievably broken it simply means there is no chance at reconciliation or no likelihood of repairing the marital relationship. Whatever the reason may be that you are ending your marriage, so long as it isn’t something you both can move past and make work, you have grounds to file for divorce. Additionally, if a couple has lived separately for 12 months consecutively or continuously, the court will make an automatic finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Because there are no required grounds for filing divorce in Wisconsin we are considered a no fault divorce state. Neither spouse has to be sleeping around or doing anything wrong at all in order to initiate the process: “it’s just not working anymore” will suffice.

Thinking about filing? Going through a divorce or separation is a tough and emotional process, so let us help you through it. Contact Attorney Britteny LaFond at Petit & Dommershausen today at 920-739-9900 for a free consultation.

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Purchasing a Home: Why Buyers Should Have Legal Counsel

First Time Homebuyer?

The decision to purchase a home is at the same time thrilling and overwhelming. It begins with a few internet searches and downloading a real estate app and suddenly it is market reports and researching the different ways to take title. The home-buying process is full of confusing information. Hiring an attorney can help sort through all the clutter.

Continue reading Purchasing a Home: Why Buyers Should Have Legal Counsel

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Appealing a Criminal Conviction

What does a criminal appeal entail?

I often receive calls from people that have retained other lawyers and have been sentenced in criminal matters and are unhappy with the results.  The first question asked by people is: can I appeal this?  The second question I am invariably asked is: how good do my chances look?  The first question is easy to answer because appeals are governed, for the most part, by the Wisconsin statutes.  If someone has been criminally convicted, they have the absolute right to appeal the decision as long as it is done in a timely manner.  At the end of every sentencing hearing, a judge will instruct the defense attorney to inform their client about their right to appeal and will have the client sign a document that indicates that if they wish to do so, a Notice of Intent to Pursue Post-Conviction Relief must be filed within 20 days of the sentencing date.  It is, at that point, when defendants then seem to get lost in the process. Because the original trial attorney’s representation ends after sentencing the  ball would fall in the defendant’s court.  If a defendant is eligible for a public defender, the State Public Defender’s office would appoint an appellate attorney and that attorney could represent the person.  Often, however, the person is not eligible for public defender representation or wishes to hire counsel of their own choosing.  What do they do next?

A blog post prepared by Attorney Greg Petit.  Read more here.

Continue reading Appealing a Criminal Conviction