By Gretchen Schuldt
A bill introduced in the Legislature last week has the potential to criminalize possession of home-brewing equipment used for anything other than wine-making.
The bill, AB250, also would prohibit anyone with a felony record from getting a retail license to sell tobacco or cigarettes, though it does not explain the why the prohibition is needed or even helpful.
On the home-brewing front, the bill "generally prohibits a person from possessing a still or other apparatus for manufacturing, rectifying, distilling, refining, or purifying intoxicating liquor other than wine," according to the Legislative Reference Bureau. (Emphasis added.)
Violations would be punishable by up to nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.
The bill does not prohibit brewing beer at home, but prohibits possessing the apparatus that could also be used for liquor-making. Think carboys and airlocks. The bill also would outlaw possession of stills not used to make alcohol. Collectors may have them, and stills are used to distill other, non-alcoholic products such as water, oils and perfumes.
The bill also carries a presumption of guilt. It says that mere possession of the equipment "is prima facie evidence of possession for the purpose of manufacturing, rectifying, distilling, refining, or purifying of intoxicating liquor other than wine."
Yes, there are exceptions to the proposed law. "The prohibition does not apply to a person that holds an intoxicating liquor manufacturer's or rectifier's permit from DOR or that has registered the still or a distilled spirits plant under federal law."
By Gretchen Schuldt
A bill that would dramatically expand the pool of people eligible to have their criminal records expunged drew strong support at a public hearing this week before the Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee..
Grace, 34, a former Wisconsin resident, told about a crime she committed 13 or 14 years ago, when she took a plea deal on a theft charge, that continues to follow her.
Now she is married, lives in Florida, has children, and wants to be a firefighter.
"The haunting of my past continues to appear, and drag me into the stereotypical felon's barrier," she said. "I am not the felony charge, but it is defining the future I admire to become. Can you imagine the feeling of being known at every intersection of progress by the worst failure of your life? Probably not... I am being disabled by something many years ago should be put into proper context today. I can only imagine the thousands of stories of good people reestablishing their lives, but still walking around with invisible shackles of a poor decision."
Multiple organizations, including WJI, the State Public Defender's Office, the Badger Institute, and the Milwaukee Police Association, testified in favor of the bill, AB69.
WJI President Craig Johnson said the measure "is very important as it allows people who have made a mistake to get a fresh start without being stigmatized for life in their search for gainful employment, housing, and in other contexts."
Dale Bormann Jr., president of the Milwaukee Police Association, said his members see the devastation crime visits upon the victim and the perpetrator's family and future.
"We also see many outstanding members of the community who may have, for whatever reason, engaged in a single criminal act years prior, taking full responsibility for their act and have worked to better themselves, but struggle to move forward," he said.
The union hopes "this bill will allow people not to be defined by their worst day but rather the entirety of their collective actions throughout their life."
By Gretchen Schuldt
Crime victims and witnesses at least 60 years old would able to give their testimony in criminal court cases ahead of the trial and possibly over the phone, under a bill approved by the state Senate.
While some groups applauded the bill, Aaron Nelson, the president of a statewide lawyer's organization, said it is unconstitutional because allowing testimony by phone or video violates a defendant's right to confrontation. The bill has other flaws, as well, he said.
The bill, Senate Bill 18, would require a judge, at the request of the prosecutor, to hear within 60 days the testimony of an "elder" victim or witness and to preserve it in case something happened to the person.
"The ability to recall certain details is critical to the outcome of court cases," State Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), author of the bill, said in written testimony. "As degenerative brain diseases increase in senior populations, the system must be able to respond to the unique needs of an elderly victim's ability to testify."
Under the bill, now pending in the Assembly, the defendant would be required to be present during the testimony and the victim or witness would be subject to cross-examination.
The bill would allow the victim or witness to testify by phone or video if they have a good reason to do so, and would mandate that the recorded testimony be admissible against a defendant.
It also also would require a judges to work to ensure a speedy trial "in order to minimize the length of time the elder person must endure the stress of the elder person's involvement in the proceeding," the bill says.
But Nelson, head of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the the bill is "certainly problematic."
"The good news is the 60-day limit could force judges to appoint lawyers for indigent defendants at county expense much sooner than they otherwise would," he said. "The defendants obviously have the right to counsel during this testimony."
"The good news is the 60-day limit could force judges to appoint lawyers for indigent defendants at county expense much sooner than they otherwise would," he said. "The defendants obviously have the right to counsel during this testimony." – Aaron Nelson, WACDL president
If the State Public Defender's Office cannot find a lawyer for an indigent defendant, the judge in a case has the power to appoint a lawyer at county expense. Many judges do not want to do that because of the costs to the county, and defendants can sit in jail, unrepresented, for weeks or months. The early testimony and the defendant's constitutional right to a lawyer would force judges to make the appointments.
Nelson cited three other concerns about the bill in addition to whether it is constitutional – it grants older victims and witnesses a semi-right to a speedy trial, which may deprive the defense of time needed to investigate the case and prepare a case; it does not allow a defense lawyer the same right to file a motion to preserve testimony as it grants a prosecutor; and it mandates that the preserved testimony be admissible against a defendant, but does not do the same for testimony that is favorable to a defendant.
"Some of these may be drafting issues, rather than ill intent," Nelson said, ""but they need to be fixed."
Backers of the bill, in written testimony, said it would benefit the victims or witnesses.
"Involvement in these types of court proceedings can be very stressful," said Janet Zander, advocacy and policy director for the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources. "Court proceedings that drag on and have multiple continuances can create needless stress which can trigger trauma symptoms in both victims and witnesses."
And Michael Bruhn, public policy director for the Alzheimer's Association - Wisconsin, said that "we have witnessed an increase in criminal defendants and their attorneys utilizing the court system to delay court proceedings. These delays are meant to prolong a criminal case until a victim's health deteriorates or a cognitive impairment progresses to the point that the victim is no longer able to testify against in the case."
By Gretchen Schuldt
The State Legislature has authorized pay raises for lawyers in the State Public Defender's Office that will allow them to regain parity with their counterparts in prosecutors' offices.
The bill will allow SPD to give merit pay increases of more than 10% for fiscal 2021-22. It now awaits Gov. Tony Evers' signature.
The public defender raises will be funded with money already in the SPD budget – partly with money saved because so many people are quitting the agency and partly with money saved due to the drop in caseload during the coronavirus pandemic.
"While these cases are likely to come back at some point, that does not seem likely in the next few months," State Public Defender Kelli Thompson told the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. "In using these savings now, we have the opportunity to fix this disparity without appropriating new funds."
Some 78 staff members have left the office since March 2020, she said.
"Continuing to visit clients and their families in person, going to jails, and in-person court proceedings and the added workload that has been associated with the pandemic has added significant pressure that has increased turnover," Thompson said.
The pay of assistant state public defenders and assistant district attorneys are usually linked, but that link got broken during 2019-2021 budget deliberations – assistant district attorneys got raises, but assistant state public defenders did not. A bill to restore pay period was introduced in the last legislative session, but died when the session ended.
"Throughout the pandemic, SPD attorneys have been working; their offices have remained open and staffed," said State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) and State. Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), authors of the bill, which received bipartisan support. "The global pandemic has not paused the Constitutional rights of poor and indigent clients, which means that SPD attorneys have continued to appear in court, visit clients in custody, and provide professional representation."
When staff members leave, their cases must be reassigned, Thompson said. It takes time to get a new attorney up to speed, she said.
"This impact can have significant ripple effects but in smaller more rural counties it can be that much more pronounced," she said.
Thompson said there also here has also been a drop during the pandemic in the number of private bar attorneys willing to accept SPD appointments to represent indigent clients. Private lawyers are appointed to cases that SPD can't take due to issues such as workloads or conflicts of interest.
The state last year increased the amount it pays private lawyers to $70 per hour, up from the previous rate of $40, which was the lowest in the nation.
The new $70 amount, however, judging from SPD emails seeking private lawyers to take cases, has not been altogether successful in ensuring that defendants get timely representation.
One defendant with three cases pending in Langlade and Forest counties has been waiting for a lawyer for five months, according to an SPD email this week; Langlade County was seeking private lawyers for eight other defendants as well. SPD also recently was looking for lawyers for nine Sheboygan County Circuit Court defendants, 10 Fond du Lac County defendants, and defendants in several other counties as well.
"The need to retain staff at this time is even more critical to ensuring that the rights of defendants, particularly those being held in custody during a pandemic, are protected and that the criminal justice system is not brought to a standstill by lack of counsel," Thompson said.
The State Bar, Americans for Prosperity, the Association of State Prosecutors, and the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association also supported the bill.
Updated Feb. 16.
By Gretchen Schuldt
A bill that would block incarcerated people from being prioritized for the coronavirus vaccine was approved by the State Senate Tuesday.
Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), a sponsor of the bill, said in earlier testimony that the bill it "aims to prevent a coming mistake by the Evers' administration to prioritize Wisconsin's prison inmates over law abiding essential workers and others in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine."
The proposal from a state advisory committee to prioritize inmates would mean a "healthy 30-year-old three-time murderer would be entitled to receive a vaccine before other at-risk individuals," Wanggaard said. "A 25-year-old who raped a 60-year-old asthmatic cancer survivor would be entitled to receive the vaccine before his victim. This is not only unwise, it is unconscionable."
Prisons are recognized as breeding grounds for pandemics due to the poor health of many inmates and the crowded conditions. Incarcerated people face increased risk of contracting the disease, as do corrections workers and those they come in contact with both inside and outside the prison walls.
Registering against the bill were the ACLU of Wisconsin, Kids Forward, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the Wisconsin Council of Churches, and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. No organization registered in favor of the bill.
"Around the country, COVID-19 has spread at unparalleled rates inside jails and prisons," the ACLU said in a statement. "Outbreaks inside prisons affect the communities these prisons are part of, and hospital capacity in rural areas that prisons are mostly in, is very limited."
"Senate Bill 8 fails to respect the dignity inherent in every incarcerated person and the mercy that must be afforded to all," Kim Vercauteren, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, said in written testimony.
"Individuals in the DOC's care have already been processed by the criminal justice system and sentenced. Failure by corrections authorities to properly mitigate a threat of illness or death through communicable infection is not an allowable additional penalty under the law," she said.
Wanggaard said he did not want to push inmates to the end of the vaccination line, but did not want to give them special priority, either.
Incarcerated people already are "quarantined," he said.
"They are not in, and are not exposed to, the general public," he said. "The only way they could be infected is if it is brought into the prison. Since prison guards and personnel are in line to be vaccinated now, the risk of infection will be greatly reduced in a short number of weeks."
In addition, he said, "over 10,000 inmates, more than half of our entire prison population, have caught COVID. That means that over half of our prison inmates already have the antibodies against COVID. Many others may have the antibodies because of their exposure, and did not become sick. In essence, people who already have immunity would be getting the vaccine, while others who do not have immunity will have to wait."
By Gretchen Schuldt
The criminal record expunction effort that came oh, so, close to approval in the State Legislature last session is back for another try and one of its chief backers, State Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), said there is reason for optimism.
"A lot of our effort during the last two years was education," Goyke said. When legislators first considered the idea of giving those convicted of crimes a second chance, "their initial position was cautious and negative," he said.
More people are more knowledgeable about and less opposed to the bill, he said. There also is new leadership and possible new rules in the Senate, which may help as well, he said.
The revived bill again has bipartisan support. Other key backers of the measure include State Rep. David Steffen (R-Green Bay), State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and State Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison). The four have signed on to a co-sponsorship memo being circulated among other legislators.
An expunction bill last year came within three senators of passage, but bill supporters could not corral those votes.
Under current law, a person who wants to have a criminal conviction expunged from their record must ask the judge at the time of sentencing, before a judge has any idea how that person does in prison or on supervision. The law also limits the availability of expungement to those less than 25 years old at the time and to those who do not have a felony conviction record. The offense for which expungement is requested must not be a violent felony and must not carry a penalty greater than six years.
The bipartisan bill being proposed would change the law in several ways. It would remove the discriminatory age limit of 25 and would allow the people convicted of crimes to request expungement when they complete their sentences.
"The decision of whether or not to expunge a record should be based on merit and how an individual rehabilitated themselves, rather than an age," the four legislators said in the memo. "Wisconsin is one of only four states to have an age limit. This bill removes the age limit in order to focus on individuals that have successfully completed their sentence and have not reoffended."
Other limits, including the types of crimes eligible for expunction, would remain in place.
Once an expunction petition is filed, a judge would review it and either grant or deny it. If denied, a new petition could not be filed for two years.
The bill also would limit a person to one expunction.
The bill also makes clear what it means to successfully complete a sentence. That would include completing community services, paying all fines, fees, restitution, and completing any community supervision without revocation, according to the co-sponsorship memo.
The bill has strong support among some conservatives. Americans for Prosperity, for example, "have really made this one of their priorities," Goyke said.
"We are inching our coalition bigger," he said.
The bill started in the Assembly last year; this time around, it will go to the Senate first, he said.
By Margo Kirchner
The mother of a man killed by police after she called to ask for a wellness check on her mentally ill son put it bluntly:
“How could you as a parent not blame yourself for that phone call?”
Toni Biegert's son Joseph was shot by police in 2015. She and others — family members of nine men killed by officers — testified recently before a subcommittee of the Assembly Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities. The committee wanted specifically to hear from families impacted by disparities in law enforcement.
Joseph suffered from depression, and after Toni spoke with him by telephone that day in 2015 she worried that he would take too much medication, as he had threatened that previously. Toni said she could not get across Green Bay fast enough to get to Joseph herself.
When police arrived, Joseph, age 30, let them in and was cooperative, Toni said. Police checked for weapons but found none, she stated.
The officers decided to take Joseph into custody and when they patted down his pelvic area he reacted and pulled away. The scene then became chaotic, said Toni. Police took Joseph to the ground, punched him, and hit him with a baton. Toni said the police version of the scene includes Joseph dragging officers to the kitchen, where he obtained a knife from a butcher block and grazed an officer’s arm with it. Police then shot Joseph nine times.
Toni said she will never know the facts, emphasizing that “Joseph’s not here to tell his side of the story.”
Toni testified that her life will never be the same. She asked subcommittee members to put themselves in her shoes as the parent who reached out “to have someone just check on your child and he’s dead now.”
She questioned why police would take her son down and punch him merely because he pulled back when touched. In her opinion they should have calmed him down.
Joe’s only crime was that he suffered from mental illness, she said.
Toni called for mandatory crisis intervention training, or “CIT,” for every police officer, because one in five people suffers from mental illness. She charged that the officers who shot her son escalated the situation from the beginning of the encounter and that CIT could have affected the outcome.
Toni indicated that in response to her demands for mandatory CIT she has been told that no funding exists for it, and CIT remains a voluntary program. She questioned why CIT and compassion are not part of police academy training.
“Police officers need to know how to interact with people who are suffering” with mental illness, she said.
“At the end of the day, my son shouldn’t be dead,” she said.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Municipalities would be required to maintain police funding at current levels or lose state aid, under a package of police-related bills to be introduced by Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).
The requirement would have a devastating impact on local governments that are under enormous economic stress because of revenue lost during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Tony Evers called the Legislature into session on Monday to consider his nine-bill police reform package. Wanggard responded Thursday by announcing eight police-related bills of his own. State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) is a co-sponsor on all eight bills and Rep. Janel Brandtjen, (R-Menomonee Falls) is a co-sponsor of a bill dealing with the make-up and operation of Milwaukee and Madison fire and police commissions, according to the Racine County Eye.
Below are the Legislative Reference Bureau's summaries of the Wanggaard bills.
Bill 1: This bill creates an independent use of force review advisory board. Under the bill, the board conducts independent investigations of deaths and serious injuries to law enforcement officers and deaths and serious injuries to others resulting from an action or omission of a law enforcement officer. The board must recommend measures to reduce the probabilities of deaths and serious injuries from similar causes and must also review its previous recommendations to determine if they were implemented and evaluate their effectiveness.
Under the bill, if the board conducts an investigation of an incident involving an officer that resulted in death or a serious injury, its investigation may begin only after any mandatory or criminal investigation concludes. The bill grants the board access to all complete criminal and administrative investigation case files, models or renderings used in an investigation, and evidence and also to the state crime laboratories. The board must acquire experts and use advisors as needed to perform its duties; the experts and advisors include a certified firearms instructor, a defensive and arrest tactics instructor, an expert in cultural competency, a master instructor in professional communications, a master instructor in tactical response, a victim advocate, and a mental health professional.
When the board completes an investigation, it must prepare an advisory report to be made public and be submitted to the legislature, all law enforcement agencies, and the Law Enforcement Standards Board. The report must identify events or developments that led to the officer-involved death or serious injury and make recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future. The report must provide demographic information about each incident, share best practices used by law enforcement officers, and recommend practices that the board learns when exercising its review.
Note: The makeup of the board would be heavily weighted toward law enforcement and police unions. According to the bill, the board would include
Bill 2: Current law requires each law enforcement agency to have a publicly available policy or standard regulating the use of force by law enforcement officers. This bill requires each such policy or standard to provide the instances in which a use of force must be reported, how to report a use of force, and a requirement that officers who engage in or observe a reportable use of force must report it. This bill also prohibits disciplining a law enforcement officer for reporting a violation of an agency's policy or standard regarding the use of force.
Bill 3: Current law requires each law enforcement agency to prepare a policy regarding the use of force by its law enforcement officers and to make the policy available for public scrutiny. This bill requires the law enforcement agency to post its policy on the law enforcement agency website or, if the agency does not have one, on a site maintained by the municipality over which the law enforcement agency has jurisdiction. Under the bill, if the policy is changed, the law enforcement agency must ensure that the updated policy is posted as soon as practically possible but no later than one year after the change is made. The bill also requires a law enforcement agency to prominently post a means to request a copy of the policy and to provide a copy of the current policy at no charge as soon as practically possible but no later than three business days after a request is made.
Bill 4: This bill makes a number of changes that affect the board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city (presently only Milwaukee), the board of police and fire commissioners of a 2nd class city with a population of 200,000 or more (presently only Madison) (jointly referred to as affected PFC boards), and the protective services departments of 1st class cities and 2nd class cities with a population of 200,000 or more (jointly, populous cities). The changes include altering the makeup of affected PFC boards, requiring certain training for affected PFC board members, establishing certain requirements related to hiring and oversight of chiefs of protective services departments in populous cities, creating an executive director or independent monitor position in populous cities, and altering the judicial review process for police and fire department disciplinary cases in a 1st class city.
Under current law, the board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city consists of seven or nine members selected by the mayor. Boards of police and fire commissioners of other cities, including a 2nd class city, consist of five members selected by the mayor. Under this bill, a board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city consists of nine members selected by the mayor, and confirmed by the common council. The board of a police and fire commission of a 2nd class city with a population of 200,000 or more consists of seven members selected by the mayor. Each of these boards must contain at least one member selected from a list provided by each of 1) the employee association that represents nonsupervisory law enforcement officers and 2) the employee association that represents fire fighters.
This bill provides a method for selecting members of affected PFC boards when the mayor fails to make an appointment to a vacant position. If the mayor fails to make an appointment within 120 days of the occurrence of a vacancy, the common council may make the appointment, except when the vacant position is one that must be filled from one of the lists described above. In this case, the association that provided the list may make the appointment without confirmation by the common council.
In a 1st class city, a three-member panel of the board of fire and police commissioners may conduct and decide a trial to evaluate a complaint against a member of the police or fire department. This bill specifies that when a three-member panel conducts such a trial, at least one member of the panel must have professional law enforcement experience if the accused is a police officer, and at least one such member must have professional fire fighting experience if the accused is a fire fighter.
The bill also requires each member of an affected PFC board to take a training class provided by the city in which it operates. The training class must cover the mission and role of the board, the procedures that apply to disciplinary hearings, the conduct policies of the police and fire departments, and use of force guidelines of the police department. A member may not participate in any action of the board until he or she completes the training class and any other training required by the city.
The bill also creates the office of executive director in a 1st class city and the office of independent monitor in a 2nd class city with a population of 200,000 or more. Despite the different titles, these positions have the same duties and requirements. This person acts as the principal staff of an affected PFC board, reviews certain situations or investigations involving the police or fire department, evaluates police and fire department policies and practices, and issues periodic reports to the public relating to the status and outcome of complaints that have been filed. The executive director or independent monitor is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the common council and serves a four-year term, at the pleasure of the board.
This bill also specifies the following related to affected PFC boards:
1. When an affected PFC board appoints a protective services chief, the board must meet in closed session with representatives of the employee association whose members will serve under the proposed chief.
2. When an affected PFC board appoints a protective services chief, the board must hold at least two public meetings to hear comments from residents of the city and other interested persons.
3. When a member is appointed to an affected PFC board, the common council must hold two public hearings that include public comment periods with regard to the appointments.
4. If an affected PFC board accepts an additional application for chief of police after the application period for accepting these applications has closed, the board must reopen the application period for an additional seven days.
5. If the common council adopts a resolution by a two-thirds majority to conduct a performance review of a protective services chief, an affected PFC board must conduct the review and provide a written report to the common council.
6. A PFC board member may not continue in office after the expiration of his or her term, unless reappointed and, in a 1st class city, confirmed.
Currently, if a board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city discharges, suspends, or reduces in rank an officer or member of the police or fire department, the disciplined person may appeal that decision to a circuit court. This bill specifies the scope of review under which a court is to review an appeal of this sort. Under the bill, a court must review the evidence independently and without deference to the board's findings; must reverse the board's decision if it finds that fairness or correctness of the action has been impaired by material or procedural errors; and must set aside or modify the board's decision if it finds that the board erroneously interpreted a provision of law, or may remand the case to the board for further action that is consistent with current law. The bill also requires the court to reverse the board's decision if it finds that the board's exercise of discretion is outside of its delegated powers; is inconsistent with a board rule, policy, or practice, unless the board's deviation is adequately explained; or violates the constitution or the statutes. The bill also authorizes a court to take additional testimony, depositions, and interrogatories, and to grant requests for additional discovery.
Bill 5: This bill establishes a $600,000 grant program, administered by the Department of Justice, for cities with a population of 60,000 or more to fund community-oriented policing house programs.
Bill 6: Under this bill, if in any year a municipality decreases the amount of its municipal budget dedicated to hiring, training, and retaining law enforcement officers so that it is less than the amount dedicated to that purpose in the previous year, the municipality will receive a county and municipal aid payment that is reduced by the amount of that decrease. The bill provides that the amount of all such reductions will be distributed to the municipalities that did not reduce their law enforcement budgets in proportion to each municipality's share of the total amount of county and municipal aid payments. Furthermore, the amount of the reduced payment that the municipality receives becomes the amount of county and municipal aid that the municipality will receive in subsequent years.
The reductions under the bill do not apply to a municipality that transfers responsibility for providing law enforcement to another local unit of government or that enters into a cooperative agreement to share law enforcement responsibilities with another local unit of government.
Bill 7: Current law requires law enforcement agencies to develop policies on the use of force by law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties. This bill provides that a law enforcement agency may not authorize in its use of force policy the use of choke holds by law enforcement officers, except in life threatening situations or in self-defense.
Bill 8: Current law requires the Department of Justice to collect certain information concerning criminal offenses committed in Wisconsin. This bill requires DOJ to collect data and publish an annual report on law enforcement use of force incidents, including incidents where there was a shooting, where a firearm was discharged in the direction of a person (even if there was no injury), and where other serious bodily harm resulted from the incident. The bill requires certain demographic information to be collected about each such incident, and reported annually by DOJ on its Internet site.
By Gretchen Schuldt
A proposal to require law enforcement to impound any vehicle operated by a person without a valid driver's license would cost the state and local governments up to $50 million a year if the proposal becomes law, according to the State Department of Transportation.
The cost estimate assumes costs of $28.9 million for 258.4 new employees to handle the work involved and $21.2 million in towing and vehicle storage costs that law enforcement agencies would not be able to recover.
In addition, the law proposed by State Sen. David Craig (R - Big Bend) and State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) could leave car owners scrambling to retrieve from the impound lot their vehicles that were stolen and driven by the unlicensed thieves.
"It appears that the owner of the (stolen) vehicle would be responsible for paying the fees to get their own vehicle back," DOT said in a fiscal estimate.
Craig is the lead sponsor in the Senate; Sanfelippo is the lead in the Assembly. Senate co-sponsors are Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater), Andre Jacque (R-DePere), and Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green). Assembly co-sponsors include Scott Allen (R-Waukesha), Barbara Dittrich (R-Oconomowoc), Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger), Cody Horlacher (R-Muskego), Terry Katsma (R-Oostburg), Daniel Knodl (R-Germantown), Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin), Gae Magnafici (R-Dresser), David Murphy (R-Greenville), John Spiros (R-Marshfield), Ken Skowronski (R-Franklin), Paul Tittl (R-Manitowoc), Ron Tusler (R-Harrison), and Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego).
The Craig/Sanfelippo bill would, with few exceptions, require that a car operated by a driver without a valid license "be immediately impounded." The requirement would apply in cases of driving on a suspended license, driving after revocation, and driving without a license.
"It appears that the owner of the (stolen) vehicle would be responsible for paying the fees to get their own vehicle back." – Wisconsin Department of Transportation
A person could get a car back at the end of an impound period by paying the fine or forfeiture for the license violation and any impound fees. A vehicle could not be released, however, unless it was properly registered and the person to whom it was registered showed proof of insurance and a valid operator's license.
The State Patrol, which issued 11,292 citations last year for driving without a valid license, doesn't have any impound lots and would have to get some, the DOT said.
"It is estimated that it could cost roughly $500,000 to establish each lot when factoring in the costs to obtain real estate, paving, fencing and the necessary security measures," the agency said. The estimate does not say how many impound lots the state would need.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The State Assembly's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold an announced-at-the-last-minute public hearing on a package of partisan "tougher on crime bills" Thursday in the State Capitol.
The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. in room 412 East.
If you support criminal justice reform, chances are you will not like these Republican proposals. WJI opposes them.
The bill numbers, links to their text, and short summaries of what the legislation would do are below. The summaries are taken from Legislative Reference Bureau information and from the relevant bill's language. Each one will carry a fiscal cost, but the estimates are not yet available.
Please contact your legislator and join the fight for a reasonable criminal justice system. Find out who your state representatives are by going here and clicking on the "Who are My Legislators?" button.
The members of the criminal justice committee are listed here.
Assembly Bill 758 – Under this bill, a person in a facility to await a commitment trial as a sexually violent person is guilty of a Class H felony if he or she commits battery against an officer, employee, agent, visitor, or other resident of the facility. Class H felonies are punishable by up to six years in prison and / or a $10 000 fine.
Assembly Bill 802 – This bill would allow a judge, when determining when videoconferencing can be used in court, to consider the safety of the witness or the risk that the witness may be unavailable to testify if videoconferencing is not used
Assembly Bill 803 – The allowable use of deposition testimony in court instead of live testimony would be expanded under this bill. Deposition testimony would be acceptable if it appears that the witness is "at risk" of being intimidated and thus may not fully cooperate at trial. It also would be allowed if a judge finds that a witness "may have been" intimidated.
Assembly Bill 804 – This bill would increase the penalty for intimidating the victim or alleged victim of domestic abuse from a maximum of nine months incarceration and / or a $10,000 fine to a maximum of 10 years in prison and / or a $25,000 fine.
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