By Gretchen Schuldt
A State Assembly committee recommended adoption of a bill that would make more people eligible to have their criminal records expunged, but also added four more crimes ineligible for expungement.
Felony stalking offenses, misdemeanor property damage to a business, misdemeanor criminal trespass to a dwelling, and violation of a domestic abuse injunction or restraining order would be ineligible for expungement under an amendment adopted by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on an 8-6 vote. The bill then was forwarded to the full Assembly on a unanimous vote.
The Senate's Judiciary and Public Safety Committee recommended Senate adoption of the bill, without the additional four ineligible crimes, on a 5-2 vote.
The full Assembly is expected to consider its version June 16.
Wisconsin's expungement law is stricter than other states' laws. Currently, a person who wants to have a criminal conviction expunged from their Wisconsin record must ask the judge at the time of sentencing, before the 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 of the crime 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 in prison.
Both the Assembly and Senate versions of the bill would change the law in several ways. It would remove the discriminatory age limit of 25 and would allow people convicted of crimes to request expungement when they complete their sentences.
Other limits, including a prohibition on expunging records related to violent crimes and crimes carrying penalties of more than six years in prison, would remain in place.
Under the bill, 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 legislation also makes clear what it means to successfully complete a sentence. That would include completing community service, paying all fines, fees, restitution, and completing any community supervision without revocation.
Watch or listen to this fascinating discussion with Alec Karakatsanis, who joined WJI April 29, 2021 for a discussion about "Prosecutors, Judges, and Public Defenders: The Complicity of Lawyers in the Mass Human Caging Bureaucracy."
Karakatsanis is the founder and executive director of Civil Rights Corps, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization challenging systemic injustice in the U.S. legal system through advocacy and litigation.
Karakatsanis, author of "Usual Cruelty: The Complicity of Lawyers in the Criminal Injustice System," doesn’t think people who have gone to law school, passed the bar, and sworn to uphold the Constitution should be complicit in the mass caging of human beings – an everyday brutality inflicted disproportionately on poor people and people of color and for which the legal system has never offered sufficient justification.
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