Here's a rundown on justice-related bills and issues in the Legislature this week.
An amendment by David Steffen (R-Green Bay) that would have prohibited the Department of Health Services from providing the COVID vaccine to incarcerated folks less than 60 years old until at least 21 days after the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is available to the general public was not included in the final version of AB5 adopted by the Assembly Thursday.
HOWEVER: SB8, which would prohibit people incarcerated in state prisons from being given priority in COVID vaccine priority in the state’s allocation, is still out there.
Below are summaries of some new bills introduced. The summaries are not complete so if something catches your eye, you might want to check out the full Legislative Reference Bureau analysis printed at the top of the actual bill and check out the full bill itself.
HARSHER PENALTIES – When 40 years is not enough
SB17 – This is a long one. It's all about extra penalties if crimes involve victims who are 60 or older. These summaries are lifted right from the Legislative Reference Bureau except for the penalty explanations.
SEXUAL ASSAULT OF AN ELDER PERSON Under this bill, any act of sexual misconduct that is currently a second degree sexual assault is a first degree sexual assault if the victim is 60 years of age or older. Under current law, if a person engages in any of the specified acts of sexual misconduct, he or she is guilty of a Class C felony (fine of up to $100,000, or imprisonment of up to 40 years, or both). Under the bill, he or she is guilty of a Class B felony (60 years in prison) if the victim is 60 years of age or older, whether or not he or she knew the victim's age.
PHYSICAL ABUSE OF AN ELDER PERSON This bill creates the crime of physical abuse of an elder person that is modeled after the current law prohibition of physical abuse of a child. Under the bill, an elder person is anyone who is 60 years of age or older, and a person may be prosecuted irrespective of whether he or she knew the age of the crime victim. Under the bill, the penalties range from a Class C felony for intentionally causing great bodily harm to a Class I felony for recklessly causing bodily harm. (Details in the bill.)
FREEZING OF ASSETS This bill creates a procedure for a court to freeze or seize assets from a defendant who has been charged with a financial exploitation crime when the victim is an elder person. Under the bill, if a person is charged with a financial exploitation crime, the crime involves property valued at more than $2,500, and the crime victim is at least 60 years old, a prosecuting attorney may file a petition with the court to freeze the funds, assets, or property of the person in an amount up to 100 percent of the alleged value of property involved in the person's pending criminal proceeding for purposes of preserving the property for future payment of restitution to the crime victim.
INCREASED PENALTIES This bill creates a scheme that allows a term of imprisonment that is imposed for a criminal conviction to be increased in length if the crime victim was an elder person. Under the bill, a maximum term of imprisonment of one year or less may be increased to not more than two years; a maximum term of imprisonment of more than one year but not more than ten years may be increased by not more than four years; and a maximum term of imprisonment of more than ten years may be increased by not more than six years. Under the bill, the term of imprisonment may be lengthened irrespective of whether the defendant knew the age of the crime victim.
RESTRAINING ORDERS FOR AN ELDER PERSON This bill allows an elder person who is seeking a domestic violence, individual-at-risk, or harassment restraining order to appear in a court hearing by telephone or live audiovisual means. Under the bill, an elder person is anyone who is 60 years old or older. Under current law, a person seeking a domestic violence, individual-at-risk, or harassment restraining order must appear in person in the courtroom at a hearing to obtain a restraining order.
SB18 – This bill creates a requirement that a court expedite proceedings in criminal and delinquency cases and juvenile dispositional hearings involving a victim or witness who is an elder person. Under the bill, the court must take appropriate action to ensure a speedy trial in order to minimize the length of time the elder person must endure the stress of involvement in the proceedings. This bill also creates a requirement that a court preserve certain testimony in criminal matters involving a victim or witness who is an elder person. Under the bill, in criminal and delinquency cases and juvenile dispositional hearings involving a victim or witness who is an elder person, the prosecuting attorney may file a motion to preserve the testimony of the elder person. If the prosecuting attorney files such a motion, the court must then hold a hearing to record the testimony of the elder person within 60 days. The bill requires the defendant to be present at the hearing and the witness to be subject to cross-examination at the hearing. The recorded testimony of the elder person from the hearing is admissible at later court proceedings in the case. Under the bill, an elder person is any person who is 60 years of age or older.
Financial controls for "vulnerable" (anyone over 60) adults
SB19 – This bill allows financial service providers to refuse or delay financial transactions when financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult is suspected. The bill authorizes financial service providers to take certain other actions to prevent or detect financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. The bill also provides a process for a financial service provider to create a list of persons that a vulnerable adult authorizes to be contacted if the financial service provider reasonably suspects that the vulnerable adult is a victim of financial exploitation and authorizes the financial service provider to convey its suspicions of financial exploitation to certain persons, including persons on this list.
Under the bill, a financial service provider is immune from criminal, civil, and administrative liability for all of the following: 1) refusing or not refusing, or delaying or not delaying, a financial transaction; 2) refusing to accept or accepting a power of attorney; 3) contacting a person or not contacting a person to convey a suspicion of financial exploitation; and 4) any action based on a reasonable determination related to the preceding items 1 to 3.
SB20 – This bill allows securities industry professionals to provide to the Department of Financial Institutions, adult protective service agencies, and other persons notice of suspected financial exploitation of certain vulnerable adults and allows broker-dealers and investment advisers to temporarily delay transactions or disbursements from the accounts of vulnerable adults when financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult is suspected. The bill also increases penalties for securities violations committed against these vulnerable adults.
Prohibitions for plea agreements and dismissed charges
SB24 – Under this bill, an out-of-home placement (for a child in need of protection or services in an out-of-home placement in a foster home, a shelter care facility, a group home, a subsidized guardianship, or with a relative who receives kinship care payments) t may not receive a license if the background investigation shows that a licensee, employee, or nonclient resident of the out-of-home placement has pled no contest to a charge of certain crimes against a child or has had a charge for those crimes dismissed or amended as a result of a plea agreement.
Under this bill, the juvenile court may not place a child with a relative other than a parent or with another person who is not licensed under the Children's Code if the relative or unlicensed person has been convicted, pled no contest, or been subject to a plea agreement for a crime against a child.
Prostitution crime surcharge
SB26 – This bill creates a $5,000 surcharge to be imposed on persons who are convicted of patronizing or soliciting prostitutes, pandering, or keeping a place of prostitution. Under this bill the surcharge amounts collected are used for treatment and services for sex-trafficking victims and for criminal investigative operations and law enforcement relating to Internet crimes against children.
A really specific bill
SB28 would make it a Class H felony for a person who is placed in a facility awaiting a commitment trial as a sexually violent person to commit battery against an officer, employee, agent, visitor, or other resident of the facility. Class H felonies are punishable by a fine of $10,000, six years in prison, or both.
Felonious intent to commit a misdemeanor
SB53 would make it a felony to break into a home or certain other places with the intent to commit misdemeanor battery. The penalty would be up to 12 1/2 years in prison, a $25,000 fine, or both.
Help WJI advocate for justice in Wisconsin