The Legislature is back in session. We’re flagging and summarizing the latest justice-related proposals. If something here catches your eye, links will take you to the full bills. A table showing the bills' sponsors is at the bottom of this post.
Senate Joint Resolution 10 — Measuring public opinion on restoring abortion access
Democratic legislators are trying again to get abortion on the ballot.
The question on the 2024 spring ballot would simply ask, “Shall Wisconsin's 1849 abortion law be repealed and the constitutional right guaranteed under Roe v. Wade be restored?"
The 1849 law prohibits abortion unless it is necessary to save the life of the mother.
A similar ballot question failed last month on a party-line vote, with Republicans opposed.
Senate Bill 11 — Expanding treatment alternatives and diversion programs
Under the bill, grant funding for treatment alternatives and diversion programs could be used to support services that provide treatment, as an alternative to prosecution or incarceration, for any kind of mental illness. Currently, the grants are used to pay for only alcohol or drug treatment services.
Senate Bill 21 — Increasing allowed personal property for those in custody
People incarcerated by the state would be allowed to keep personal property valued up to $150 and a musical instrument or electronic item worth up to $350, under the bill. Incarcerated individuals now are allowed to possess personal property with a value up to $75, except that a person can possess a musical instrument or electronic item worth up to $350. Medically prescribed items still would be allowed, as is the case now.
Senate Bill 25 — Lowering the dollar threshold for felony theft of property
Under the bill, felony theft charges would apply in cases now charged as misdemeanors. Currently, thefts involving goods valued at less than $2,500 are misdemeanors punishable by up to nine months of incarceration and a $10,000 fine. Under the bill, theft of property worth $1,000 to $5,000 would be a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Senate Bill 38 — Reforming expungement law
Supporters of expungement reform are trying again to modify the state’s law governing when a criminal record can be cleared.
The restrictions now are pretty strict. A record can be expunged if the maximum potential prison sentence is six years or less, the crime involved was not a violent felony and was committed by someone under 25 years old, and the person had never been previously convicted of any felony.
In addition, expungement must be requested when a person is sentenced, meaning the judge is expected to decide whether the person is eligible for expunction before there is a track record on which to base that decision.
Under the new bill, the age restriction would be lifted. Certain restrictions would remain, including those on past felonies, violent felonies, and the six-year maximum prison sentence.
The law, if passed, would also make some offenses ineligible for expungement, including traffic crimes, violating a domestic abuse injunction or restraining order, criminal trespass, and criminal damage to a business.
Eligibility for expungement still could be granted or denied by the judge at sentencing, but if the court does not grant eligibility, the person could petition for expungement after completing their sentence.
If the petition is denied, the person can’t file another petition for two years and then must pay the county $100. A person would be limited to a maximum of two petitions per crime.
Only one expungement per person would be allowed.
The bill would be retroactive to include those convicted of crimes before its adoption.
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