Expert and Investigator Services

NOTICE: Coinciding with the private bar rate increase, the SPD is increasing the hourly rate for investigators to $25/hour (from the current $20/hour) on cases that are appointed on or after 1/1/20. To ensure the investigators you employ are paid correctly, private bar lawyers should make sure investigator invoices reflect the date of work done and the rate change.

Criminal representation often includes the services of an investigator or an expert witness. The SPD reimburses attorneys for these expenses when they are necessary to provide an effective criminal defense.

*All expert/investigator expenses must be pre-approved by the SPD.

Finding an Expert or Investigator

Many attorneys use Defendernet (the SPD listserve hosted by the State Bar) or WACDL for suggestions. Attorneys are also encouraged to contact ACD or their local SPD office to consult with staff about experts that have been used by the private bar or SPD staff attorneys.

Professional Association of Wisconsin Licensed Investigators-

SPD Rates for Experts and Investigators

The SPD has limited resources to pay for experts. You should negotiate the best price for the expert’s services. Many experts will accept SPD cases for less than their premium rates.

Expert Rates: The cost of an expert can vary greatly depending on the type of work and your locale. The SPD rarely approves experts at their private pay rates. ACD staff can assist you by providing information about the normal costs associated with various types of expert services.

Investigator Rates: The SPD investigator reimbursement rate is $25/hour. A higher reimbursement rate may be approved if the investigator is providing an additional service, e.g., interpreter, social worker.

Submitting an Expert or Investigator Request

1) Log into your online billing account.

2) Click on Expense Authorization.

3) Click on Add New Request.

4) Select the case for which you would like to submit the request from the Select a Case dropdown menu and click submit.

5) Complete the Case Expense Request Edit form.

The request should address the following questions:

  • Why is the expert needed? (what is the theory of defense and how does the expert help with the presentation of that defense)
  • What work will the expert perform? (record review, testing, evaluation, consultation, report writing, testimony, etc.)
  • Why is there a reasonable likelihood of a helpful opinion from the expert?
  • What impact will the expert have on the case and is the cost of the expert reasonable in light of that impact?

6) Click Submit Request when complete.

ACD carefully reviews every expert request. Your request for funding may be denied if the justification for the request is missing or poorly developed.

Working with an Expert or Investigator

Once ACD has approved your request, you should follow up with a letter to your expert. The letter should state clearly the amount approved and that the expert must contact the lawyer before exceeding that amount. The SPD is not responsible for paying more than the approved amount.

The letter should also clearly describe the services that have been negotiated. Rather than say "psychological evaluation", the letter should list the work that goes into such an evaluation such as: review medical records, interview client, consult collateral sources, review police reports, or provide a written report to attorney. This will help avoid misunderstandings and overbilling.

Sometimes you have both good and bad information about your client. You should consider carefully what information you provide to the expert. However, if you withhold material information from the expert, their conclusions may be suspect. Further, if you withhold material information, the expert may not be as able to defend his/her opinion on cross examination.

You should hold your expert to his/her original estimate. If an expert tells you that s/he will need more time to complete the work, you will need to submit another expert request. Approval must be obtained before allowing the expert to proceed.

Since funding is limited, ACD will rarely approve an out of state expert. Please contact ACD if you would like to work with an out of state expert.

The case expense rules that apply to attorneys also apply to experts and investigators.

Payments to Experts and Investigators

When you submit your invoice to the SPD, you will include the expert/investigator bill as a case expense. You must also submit the expert's itemized invoice. The expert's invoice must include the dates of any and all services provided. You will receive a payment for your fees and expenses, including the cost of the expert. Attorneys are expected to promptly pay experts after payment for expert services is issued.  See Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 20:1.15(d):
 "..., the lawyer shall promptly deliver to the 3rd party any funds or other property that the 3rd party is entitled to receive.”

In some cases an expert bill may be processed before the case is concluded. You may contact ACD to request approval to submit an interim bill for your expert’s costs. Generally, interim bills for experts are approved if the case will not close for at least 60 days and the expert's work is completed.

The SPD cannot pay in advance for expert services. If necessary, ACD will provide a letter to the expert documenting approval and the amount the Agency has agreed to pay. If you would like to discuss an expedited payment for an expert, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 Witness who is also an Expert

Sometimes there will be a witness in a case who happens to be an "expert". Often this witness is the emergency room doctor, family physician, or counselor. If the testimony sought from such witnesses is for their expert opinions as well as their observations, they are entitled to expert fees. See In Re the Imposition of Sanctions in Alt v. Cline, 224 Wis. 2d 72 (1999) (In addition to demonstrating a compelling need for the expert's testimony, the party seeking the expert's testimony must present a plan of reasonable compensation.)

If you have such a witness in your case, you should speak with them and negotiate reasonable fees for their testimony. You must then get approval from ACD for those fees.

 Court Appointed Experts

The SPD will not pay for any expert appointed by the court. When the court has appointed the expert, the county pays for that expert. Common examples are:

  • Competency – under s. 971.14
  • Certain NGI proceedings – under s. 971.17
  • Sexually Violent Person Commitments and petitions – under ss. 980.031(3), 980.07(1), 980.08(3), 980.09(1m)
  • Initial and follow-up involuntary commitment examinations – under ss. 51.20(9), 51.20(16)
  • Initial and annual protective placement evaluations – under ss. 55.11(1), 55.11(2), 55.18(1), 55.18(3)(bm)

If the court has appointed an expert, you may request approval for funding for a different expert from the SPD. Your request should explain why a second opinion is necessary.