Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Pretrial Services

How to Prepare for Court

Plan Ahead and Ask Off of Work for Court Hearings

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Wisconsin Circuit Court Access

Check Wisconsin Circuit Court Access to stay up-to-date on court appearances.

NOTE: Court Branch numbers are NOT the same as floor numbers.

Plan Your Transportation to the Courthouse

Parking - For more information regarding street parking around the Dane County Courthouse, check out the Madison Parking Utility Website and the Park Smarter Mobile App.

Madison Metro Routes & Schedules 

Accessible parking is available at the courthouse. Map of accessible parking by the courthouse

Prepare for Courthouse Security Screening

Security Procedures at the Dane County Courthouse - Weapon Screening Notice

  • The safety of employees, jurors, litigants, and all who visit the courthouse is a key priority of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office. The courthouse must be a place that provides a calm, safe, and neutral environment for resolution of disputes. This information is intended to provide the guidelines necessary to help ensure the safety and security of all who utilize the courthouse.
  • All persons who enter the courthouse must proceed through weapon screening. Law enforcement on official business can bypass the x-ray and metal detector but must sign in after passing through the glass side door on either side of the weapon screening station. Law enforcement officers observing a court hearing, but are not the case detective or appearing by subpoena are not considered on official business.
  • As people proceed through the screening process, they will be instructed to empty pockets of any object containing metal. All belts with metal buckles and any other identified metal should be placed in a plastic property bin prior to walking through a metal detector. If a person sets off the metal detector, the person will be asked to remove any metal objects from their person, place the item in their property bin, and pass through the metal detector once more.
  • If a person still sets off the metal detector, a weapon screener will further investigate the reason for the alarm using a hand-held wanding device and manual search. If a hand-held wanding device identifies an area on a person that may contain metal, the screener will further investigate what is setting off the wand. The screener will provide advanced notice they are going to conduct a pat-down and visual inspection of the identified area. (i.e., a pant leg near the ankle).
  • If a weapon screener identifies a questionable object in a property bin while being x-rayed, the screener should inquire with the property owner what the object is. The object may be run through the x-ray machine a second time. Afterward, the object may be further investigated once it exits the x-ray machine. The property owner must remain at the station while the item in question is being investigated.
  • No prohibited items will be allowed in the courthouse at any time. Those entering the courthouse with a prohibited item will be asked to remove the item from the courthouse prior to conducting business inside the building. A prohibited item in the courthouse is any of the following, including screeners using their discretion to disallow an item into the courthouse that is believed could be a safety and security issue:
    • Guns, knives, ammunition, facsimile weapons, explosives, Taser, martial arts weapons, baton, pepper spray, brass knuckles, needle-nose pliers, screwdriver, drill bits, wrenches, construction nails, nail punch, chisel, putty knife, hammer, bike tools, sharp kitchen utensils, skateboard, bicycle, metal darts, scissors, drugs (other than a prescription), and alcohol.
Image of Initial Appearance Sign

What happens after someone has been arrested?

Persons charged with misdemeanor crimes may be able to post bail and be released and will have to return to the Dane County Courthouse at a later date. Out of custody initial appearance hearings are held in Courtroom 1A of the Dane County Courthouse, 215 S. Hamilton Street, Madison.

Persons charged with felony crimes MUST WAIT in jail for an initial appearance before a court commissioner. These hearings are held Monday through Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the Public Safety Building (Dane County Jail), 115 W. Doty St, Madison. The jail is adjacent to the courthouse.

Dane County Circuit Court Initial Appearance Court (In Custody) Live Stream (starts at 1:30 pm Monday – Friday)

Live stream in-custody Initial Appearance Court (starts at 1:30 pm M-F)

Image of the Bail/Release Window at the Public Safety Building

How to post bail

Pay bail in person at the Bail/Release window at the Public Safety Building (Dane County Jail), 115 W. Doty St., Madison, WI, on the ground floor. The jail accepts cash, credit cards, money orders, or cashier’s checks. Cash bail can also be paid at any Sheriff’s Department in Wisconsin; simply let them know you are bailing someone out in Dane County. 

Link to District Attorney's Court Process and How to post bail.

Image of the Public Safety Building

When will a person be released from Jail?

This depends on why someone is in jail. People serving sentences have a scheduled release date if no other charges or warrants exist. Those being held on a probation or parole violations can only be released by their probation or parole agent. To contact a person’s probation or parole agent, call the Department of Corrections Central Records at 608-240-3750 and provide the person’s name, date of birth, or inmate number.

Behavior at Court Hearings

Here are some general tips:

  • Arrive on time. The court has a very busy schedule. If you are late, your case might be postponed to another date or dismissed entirely.
  • Dress professionally, as you would for an important event. This means that your clothing should be neat and clean, and that you are well groomed.
  • Do not bring your children into court. Make childcare arrangements in advance, if needed.
  • Do not chew gum.
  • Turn off electronic devices, including cell phones and pagers.
  • Be respectful to everyone in court. This includes the judge or court commissioner, court staff, the other party involved in your case, witnesses, court bailiff, and any other people in the area.
  • Address the judge as “Your Honor”.
  • Do not use profanity, argue, or verbally react to answers given in court by the judge or commissioner, opposing party, or attorney. You will have your turn to speak.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • What to expect at a Pretrial Services’ intake?
    • Once you arrived at Pretrial Services, a social worker is assigned to you. The social worker will go over the appropriate paperwork, determine your needs, and connect you with resources that are available in the community.
    • Remote Breath Monitoring - The social worker will provide instructions for the Remote Breath.You will complete practice Remote Breath tests so you are able to use the equipment once you leave the office. 
    • GPS Monitoring - The social worker will provide instructions for the GPS.The social will attach a full charged GPS to the ankle of your choice and it will be fitted properly.
    • Random Drug Testing - During the intake, you will be asked to provide a urine sample.
  • How long will a typical intake meeting last?
    • A typical intake lasts about an hour. If you are court ordered to be on more than one piece of equipment, the intake will take longer.
  • Will clients receive text reminders for court hearings and appointments?
    • You will need to provide a current phone number to your social worker so they can set up text message reminders. 
  • What is GPS?
    • Global positioning system or GPS is an ankle-monitoring device that you wear and it tracks your movement 24/7. If you are on GPS, you could have a curfew, house arrest, areas that you cannot be in, if ordered by the court. It is your responsibility to keep the GPS unit charged. You will be given all the equipment to be successful on the GPS.
  • How do I get it removed?
    • The GPS can be cut off by Pretrial Staff, if the court removes GPS as a bail condition or if your case is resolved.
  • What is Remote Breath (RB)????????
    • A remote breath is a handheld, portable breath alcohol monitoring unit. If you are ordered on a remote breath, you will blow into machine three times every day. You are able to select the testing schedule that it works around your life.You will be provided all the equipment so that you are successful on the Remote Breath.
  • How I will be drug tested????????
    • If you are asked to do the drug testing program you are not allowed to use the following while in the program:
      • Synthetic Marijuana (K2 Spice)
      • Illegal drugs
      • Other people’s medicines
      • Codeine without a prescriptions 
      • CBD that contains THC (aka: Delta-8)
    • The test will be observed only by a same sex staff person.
    • Drug tests are scheduled Monday through Friday between 7:45 am to 11:45 am and 1 pm to 4 pm. If you report to the DCPS after 4pm the drug test may not be accepted. 
    • The drug test are random. You receive a text message in the morning of the day you must report to DCPS. The number of drugs tests are decided by the assigned social worker or the courts may impose a bail condition with the number of UA’s a client must provide.
  • How much does it cost to be on Pretrial Services supervision????????
    • There is no cost to you for Pretrial Services monitoring. If you are court ordered on equipment (GPS or Remote Breath) you will be liable for the equipment if it is lost or damaged.The GPS costs $1,500 to replace and the Remote Breath unit is $800 to replace. 
  • How can I find out if someone is in the Dane County Jail?
    • Call the Jail at 608-284-6800 or the VINE system at 1-877-418-8463.
  • May I bring my children to court and/or meetings with Pretrial Services?
    • Please do not bring your children into court or to Pretrial Services’ appointments.
  • Why won’t court staff help me fill out a form or tell me how to proceed in my case?
    • Courthouse staff cannot give legal advice. According to Supreme Court Rule 70.41, services such as legal research or assistance filling out a form can be considered legal advice. The worst case scenario places court staff in violation of unauthorized practice of law, an offense punishable by as much as $500 or a year in jail (according to WI Statute § 757.30(1) or both.