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.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Gov. Tony Evers is proposing to grant a $30-an-hour pay hike followed by automatic pay increases to private attorneys who accept State Public Defender appointments to represent poor defendants in court cases, according to the governor's budget proposal.
"Wisconsin has the lowest reimbursement rate for private bar attorneys that represent indigent criminal defendants," the budget notes. "Under our system of due process, everyone has a constitutional right to legal representation yet the low reimbursement rate has caused major concerns as to whether all Wisconsinites are being properly represented."
The proposed budget would increase from $40 per hour to $70 per hour paid to the private attorneys. The increase would take effect Jan. 1, 2020. After that, the amount paid would be adjusted to reflect inflation.
The initiative would cost $25.6 million over the two years of the biennium, according to the budget.
As expected, the proposed budget would legalize medical marijuana and eliminate penalties associated with small amounts of recreational marijuana. Below are related excerpts from the budget.
The state would, under the budget, do the following (we'll be adding to the list in future posts.):
You can show your support or opposition Evers' proposals by contacting your legislators. Hey, don't know who they are, exactly? You can find out by visiting the Legislature's home page here and typing your address in the box on the right side of the page.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The Department of Corrections would spend an additional $13.6 million annually to imprison fifth- and sixth-offense drunk drivers if the Legislature adopts a measure mandating 18-month minimum prison sentences for those offenders, according to a fiscal estimate from the department.
Under current law, fifth or sixth OWI offenders can be fined up to $25,000 and imprisoned for up to 10 years. The minimum sentence is $600 and six months incarceration.
An average of 438 people per year are sentenced to probation for fifth or sixth offense drunk driving. Assuming that all those people would go to prison under the new bill, the proposal would add an estimated 639 inmates to the state's already jam-packed facilities, DOC said in the estimate.
The estimate includes $1.6 million for new substance abuse disorder programs to serve the additional inmates. Those programs would require an additional 23 full-time staff position.
"These costs do not include remodeling/reconstruction costs that may be needed to create the kind of program spaces that are needed," DOC said.
Because the adult prison system is at capacity, the estimate assumes DOC would step up its contracts with local jails to house prison inmates. The agency would require an additional $12 million per year for the contracts if all 639 inmates were held in jails, according to the estimate.
The Department, in a separate estimate, said that criminalizing first offense drunk driving would cost about $3 million annually to provide supervision, electronic monitoring, and substance use disorder programming. That is just DOC's cost - fiscal estimates for courts, prosecutors, and public defenders are not yet available.
A bill pending in the Legislature would make first offense drunk driving a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days incarceration, and / or two years probation.
The estimate assumes that 13,970 people will be found guilty of first offense drunk driving during the year, and that 1,097 of those people would be placed on one year of probation. The probation rolls would permanently swell by that number about a year after the bill's enactment.
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