Laws and Legislation
The WJI Laws and Legislation page aims to provide overviews of new laws and new legislation that relate to the justice system.
The summaries are based on Legislative Reference Bureau explanations of the bills.
SB752 – This bill would dedicate $10 million or more in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to new policing grants. At least $5 million in grants would be awarded to local governments for "costs associated with additional policing to address automobile theft and carjacking." Another $5 million or more would go to local governments to pay for "strategic planning to combat crime."
AB746 – Would make some police discipline records easier to get.
They would be released under the Open Records Law without prior notice to the person they are about, though certain redactions could be made to protect privacy and individuals.
Currently, under the law subjects of an open records request must be notified in advance if the request might affect the reputation or privacy interest of a person. The subject of the request also must be given time to respond to a finding by a records custodian that the records should be released.
The new prior-notice exemption would apply to any record relating to:
1. The report, investigation, or findings of any incident involving the discharge of a firearm at a person by a law enforcement officer or an incident in which the use of force by a law enforcement officer against a person resulted in death or in great bodily harm.
2. An incident in which a sustained finding was made that a law enforcement officer engaged in sexual assault involving a member of the public.
3. An incident in which a sustained finding was made that a law enforcement officer used unreasonable or excessive force.
4. An incident in which a sustained finding was made that a law enforcement officer failed to intervene against another officer using force that was clearly unreasonable or excessive.
5. An incident in which a sustained finding was made of dishonesty by a law enforcement officer directly relating to the reporting investigation, or prosecution of a crime, or directly relating to the reporting or investigation of misconduct by another law enforcement officer, including any sustained finding of perjury, false statements, filing false reports, or the destruction, falsification, or concealment of evidence.
6. An incident in which a sustained finding was made that a law enforcement officer engaged in conduct, including verbal statements, writings, online posts, recordings, or gestures, involving prejudice or discrimination against a person on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military or veteran status.
7. An incident in which a sustained finding was made that a law enforcement officer made an unlawful arrest or conducted an unlawful
SB741 – Law enforcement agencies in Milwaukee would be allowed to use an automated speed enforcement system (ASES) to identify speed limit violations. It also would allow The Milwaukee Common Council to permit red light cameras in the city.
The owner of the vehicle would be responsible for the speed limit violations, even if someone else was driving it at the time the speeding occurred. No citation could be issued for violations of less than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit.
There are several defenses that the owner could raise, under the bill, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau:
1. The vehicle was reported stolen to a law enforcement agency before the violation occurred or within seven business days after the violation occurred.
2. The vehicle owner provides the officers with the name and address of the person operating the vehicle at the time of the violation and the person so named admits operating the vehicle at the time of the violation. Then the admitted driver can be ticketed.
3. That the vehicle is owned and registered by person or company who leases vehicles was in the possession of a person leasing it when the violation occurred, and the leasing person or entity identified the person leasing it to a traffic officer.
4. That the vehicle is owned by a car dealer and, at the time of the violation, the vehicle was being operated by a person on a test drive, and that the dealer provides information about the test driver to police.
The 14-page bill imposes many other requirements for implementation of the system, ranging from how often equipment is calibrated to what kind of reporting the city would be required to do and what kind of public information campaigns it would have to launch.
The owners of cars that run afoul of the red light cameras also would be liable for the violation, but could raise the same defenses listed above.
An owner could be ticketed if their vehicle:
1. When facing a traffic control signal at an intersection that exhibits a red light, including a flashing red light, fully enters the intersection without stopping.
2. When facing a traffic control signal at an intersection that exhibits a red light, other than a flashing red light, after stopping at the intersection, proceeds through the intersection before the traffic control signal exhibits a green light if the vehicle is not making a right turn.
The bill would limit the cameras to intersections that have at least one accident a year. No more than five cameras could be installed in any aldermanic district.
Forfeitures collected under through either the programs authorized under the bill could be used only for traffic enforcement or traffic safety programs run through or by law enforcement.
SB730 – State Elections Commission staffers or members could face 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine if they failed to remove dead people from voter rolls in a timely fashion, under this bill.
It would require the commission, at least monthly, obtain the most recent records of all deaths of residents of Wisconsin; compare those records with the commission's official voter registration list; and remove from the list any voter whose first and last name, address, and date of birth match those on a death record. Willfully neglecting or refusing to perform any of the tasks outlined in the bill would be a felony.
Currently, only elections officials convicted of committing specific forms of election fraud are subject to criminal penalties, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau. Other willful neglect or refusal to carry out a duty can be sanctioned by disqualification as an election official for five years.
AB638 – This "red flag" bill would prohibit gun possession by people deemed by a court to be likely to hurt themselves or others if they have firearms.
Under the bill, a law enforcement officer, a family member, or a member of a household could file a request in court for an extreme risk protection injunction. The filer also could ask the judge for a temporary restraining order while the injunction hearing is pending. The bill would require the judge to issue the TRO if he or she determines that the injunction is "substantially likely" to be granted and that there is good cause to believe that waiting for the injunction hearing will increase an existing danger that the person will self-harm or hurt others if in possession of a gun.
"Notice need not be given to the respondent before issuing a temporary restraining order under this subsection," the bill says.
If the judge grants the TRO, law enforcement would have to serve it "immediately, or as soon as practicable" and require the person to immediately surrender any firearms in his or her possession.
If a law enforcement officer is not available, the person would have to turn all firearms over to a law enforcement officer or a firearms dealer within 24 hours and provide the court with a receipt documenting the surrender.
The injunction hearing would be held within 14 days of the issuance of a TRO. An extreme risk injunction could be issued if the judge finds by clear and convincing evidence at the injunction hearing that the person is substantially likely to hurt himself or herself or another if the person possesses a gun. The injunction can last up to a year and can be renewed.
A person could petition to vacate the injunction. There is nothing in the bill indicating that the person against whom a petition is filed is entitled to an appointed attorney if indigent.
A person who surrenders a firearm under an extreme risk protection TRO or injunction cannot get it back until a judge decides that the order or injunction has expired or the injunction has been vacated and that the person is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Possession of a a firearm while under an extreme risk TRO or injunction would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Filing a fraudulent or knowingly false petition seeking an extreme risk TRO or injunction would be punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
SB628 – Would prevent people who are sentenced more than one time (think repeat offenders) from having to submit multiple DNA samples and pay multiple DNA surcharges.
Under current law, a judge must order a person to submit a sample and pay the surcharge each time that person is sentenced on a misdemeanor or felony. That does not make much sense, since a person's DNA is pretty stable and submitting a second or third sample twice doesn't help anything. Ordering multiple surcharges, though does put money in state and county coffers. The surcharge is $250 for a felony sentencing and $200 for a misdemeanor sentencing.
Under the bill, a person would only have to submit a sample and pay the surcharge on the first sentencing. A judge would not order the sample submission or the surcharge payment.
SB593 – Would allow people to sue abortion providers and require the plaintiffs to use a fake name.
"Any person, except for a public official, who brings an action under this section shall do so under a pseudonym unless the person obtains the written consent of the woman upon whom an abortion was performed or induced, or attempted to be performed or induced...." the bill says. The real name of the plaintiff and any witnesses would be available to the woman.
The bill prohibits a person from providing an abortion on a woman if the provider knows the woman is seeking an abortion solely because of the race, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex of the unborn child or solely because the unborn child has been diagnosed with or has a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome or another congenital disability.
A congenital disability under the proposal is congenital disease, defect, or disorder, except profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomalies are likely to be fatal and that cannot be treated.
The person suing the provider (the women getting abortions would not be subject to the suits) could allege personal injury and emotional and psychological distress. The plaintiff could also receive punitive damages and attorney's fees.
Those allowed to sue would include the woman herself or the biological father of the fetus, unless the pregnancy is the result of a sexual assault or incest. The parent or guardian of the woman could sue if the woman was a minor at the time or dies as a result of the abortion or attempted abortion. A district attorney or the attorney general also may bring an injunctive action against an abortion provider. Violating injunction would be expensive and carry fines of $10,000 for the first violation, $50,000 for the second violation, and $100,000 for each subsequent violation. Approved by both houses. Vetoed by the governor.
AB572 / SB570 – Would give new legal protections to firearm, firearm accessory, and ammunition manufacturers, importers, distributors, trade associations, sellers, or dealers.
The proposed law would block people from pursuing lawsuits against those organizations for any unlawful use of their products by a third party. It would also prohibit people from getting damages that result from injunctions or nuisance abatements related to the lawful design, manufacture, marketing, or sale of a gun, accessory, or ammunition.
Presumably, this law would block lawsuits like the one Sandy Hook parents filed against Remington Arms. Remington manufactured the assault-style gun Adam Lanza used in 2012 when he killed 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The parents sued Remington, alleging that the now-bankrupt company recklessly marketed the gun to civilians. The suit is pending. More on the case here.
SB525 / AB530 – Would prohibit social media companies from prioritizing content or material posted by or about a candidate for state or local office or an elected official who holds a state, local, or national office. The bill also would ban a social media platform from knowingly censoring, downplaying, or limiting content distribution to other users.
The bill would require a social media platform to notify a user if the platform deliberately censors the user's content or knowingly bans a user for more than 60 days, unless the censored content is obscene or constitutes a credible threat. The bill also requires a social media platform to allow a user who has been banned to access or retrieve all of the user's information, content, material, and data for at least 60 days after being kicked off.
The platform also would be required to publish its standards for determining how to censor, ban, or limit a user's content distribution, apply those standards in a consistent manner, and inform each user of any changes to the platform's rules or user agreements.
Violators would be subject to lawsuits by users and the bill does not limit which users would be allowed to file suit for any particular violation. A court could allow damages up to $250,000 for each proven claim involving statewide candidates and elected officials, $200,000 for each proven claim involving other candidates and elected officials, or $100,000 for each proven claim involving other users; actual damages. Plaintiffs also could be eligible for punitive damages, if aggravating factors are present. and costs and attorney fees.
SB516 – Would allow out-of-state residents to go armed with a concealed weapon as a Wisconsin resident would if the out-of-state resident has a valid license issued by another state.
SB515 / AB457 – Would require law enforcement agencies to ensure their use-of-force policies include the principles that the primary duty of all law enforcement is to preserve the life of all individuals; that deadly force is to be used only as the last resort; that officers should use skills and tactics that minimize the likelihood that force will become necessary; that, if officers must use physical force, it should be the least amount of force necessary to safely address the threat; and that law enforcement officers must take reasonable action to stop or prevent any unreasonable use of force by their colleagues. The bill also prohibits disciplining a law enforcement officer for reporting a violation of a use-of-force policy.
SB514 / AB448 –Would require a special prosecutor appointed by the court to must determine whether to prosecute an officer involved in a death. Currently, the district attorney makes that decision.
SB513 / AB455 – Would require the Justice Department to publish an annual reports on law enforcement use-of-force incidents, including shootings, where a firearm was discharged in the direction of a person, and where other serious bodily harm resulted from the incident. The bill also includes $100,000 for data collection costs and another $100,000 to reimburse local law enforcement for their costs.
SB512 / AB454 – Would requires law enforcement officers to complete at least eight hours of training each year on use-of-force options and de-escalation techniques. The bill also provides $250,000 each year during the biennium to reimburse governments for training costs.
SB510 – Would create a civil cause of action for financial exploitation of a vulnerable person, defined as those folks who are "elderly, financially incapable, incapacitated, or those with a disability who are susceptible to force, threat, duress, coercion, persuasion, or physical or emotional injury because of a physical or mental impairment."
SB 473 / AB335 – Would require the State Department of Justice to award grants to law enforcement agencies to buy body cameras to use on officers whose main duty is patrol. Amended version approved by the Assembly.
SB461 / AB461 – Would ban manufacture, transportation, sale, possession, and carrying of guns undetectable by metal detectors or airport x-ray machines or scanners. Federal law has a similar ban. Under the bill, the crime would be punishable by up to up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. This bill also would forbid the sale, posting, provision, or possession of plans for manufacturing an undetectable firearm. Violations would be punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The bill would outlaw the possession of a frame or a receiver of a firearm that is not marked with a serial number. Convictions for that offense would be punishable by up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
SB450 / AB470 – Would prohibit a defendant from claiming self-defense in a criminal case if the action at issue stemmed from the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim's gender identity or sexual orientation. The self-defense claim would be barred if the alleged victim made a romantic or sexual advance without use or threat of force or violence toward the defendant. A defense claim of mental disease or defect would be barred under the same conditions.
SB442 / AB458 – Directs the Department of Health Services to establish violence prevention grants to be funded through excise taxes on vapor products.
SB441 / AB466 – Increases the penalties for driving on a suspended license. Currently, the penalty for operating on a suspended license is a forfeiture of $50 to $200 if no great bodily harm is involved. The bill would increase the penalty to match those for driving without a license: a forfeiture of up to $200 for the first offense, a fine of up to $300 and 30 days in jail for the second offense occurring within three years, and a fine of up to $500 6 months behind bars for the third or subsequent offense occurring within three years.
SB440 / AB440 – Would significantly increase the penalties for manufacture and distribution of cannabis or possession of cannabis, second offense or greater, if a butane extraction method is used in the production of the drug. Right now, the manufacturing / distribution penalties range from up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine to 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Under the bill, any manufacture or distribution of cannabis involving butane extraction method would be subject to the latter set of penalties. Also, currently, possession of marijuana second offense or greater is a felony carrying a penalty of 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Under the bill, the penalties would increase if the cannabis production involved butane extraction to separate the resin. The penalties would vary based on the amount: up to three grams would be punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine; three grams to 10 grams would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine; 10 grams to 50 grams would carry a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison and a $25,000 fine; and more than 50 grams would be punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. WJI has a story about this bill here.
SB420 / AB427 – Makes it a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine to intentionally cause or threaten to cause bodily harm to an advocate or an advocate's family member if (a) the person causing or threatening to cause the harm knows or should have known the person is an advocate or a member of the advocate's family and (b) the act or threat is in response to an action taken by the advocate in his or her official capacity in a tribal court proceeding. “Advocate” means “an individual who is representing the interests of a child, the tribe, or another party in a tribal court proceeding.”
SB403 / AB409 – Would make it a felony punishable by up to 3½ years and prison and a $10,000 fine to threaten bodily harm to a public officer or a public officer's family member in an effort to influence the public officer's official actions or in retaliation for a job-related incident.
SB382 / AB386 – In cases of prosecutions of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, first degree sexual assault, or first degree sexual assault of a child where the jury finds the defendant guilty of a lesser included crime, the the conviction stands even if the statute of limitations has expired.
SB355 / AB348 – Would raise the age for legally buying tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21. Federal law already sets the legal age at 21. Violators of the new age limit would face the same penalties as exist for violating the 18-year old limit. The could face forfeitures of up to $500 for the first violation in 30 months; fined up to $500 or imprisoned for up to 30 days or both for a second violation within 30 months; fined up to $1,000 jailed for up to 90 days or for a third violation within 30 months; fined up to $10,000 and jailed for as long as nine for the fourth violation in 30 months of the violation.
SB352 / AB357 – Would stiffen penalties for manufacturing or distributing fentanyl. Right now it is punishable by a penalty of up to 15 years' imprisonment and a $50,000 fine. Under the bill, the penalty would vary depending upon the amount involved: It would remain at 15 years and $50,000 only for 10 grams or less; for more than 10 grams but not more than 50 grams, the maximum penalty would increase to 25 years and $100,000; and for more than 50 grams, 40 years and $100,000. The penalties would increase by five years if the crime occurred on a scattered-site public housing project site or within 1,000 feet of a park, a correctional facility, a multi-unit public housing project, a public swimming pool, a youth or community center, school premises, or a school bus. Approved by Senate; recommended for approval by the Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
AB350 – This bill would require a judge who received at least $1,000 in campaign contributions from a party in a case in the previous four years to recuse themselves from that case. The judge may, however, disclose the reasons for the disqualification and ask the parties and their lawyers to waive the recusal requirement. If the party opposing the donor agrees to waive disqualification, the judge does not have to recuse.
AB351 – This bill would require a judge who refused to disqualify themselves after a formal request to do so from a party in a case to explain their reasons in writing within 60 days after the case is closed.
AB352 – This bill would establish a new campaign finance reporting requirement for people who have a stake in a criminal or civil case. It would require any "interested contributor" who makes a contribution to the judge to notify the judge and every other party in the case of the contribution within five days. The requirement would apply to parties to the action and their affiliates; spouses; minor children and stepchildren of the parties; and the parties' lawyers and their law firms, partners, or associates. Violators could face penalties of up to $500.
AB354 – This bill would tighten recusal requirements for judges. Currently, judges have to remove themselves from a case if there are circumstances that would affect their impartiality, if the judges themselves determine they can't act impartially, of if they decide that it appears that they can't act impartially.
The bill would require judges to also disqualify themselves if a reasonable person would question whether the judge could act in an impartial manner.
AB368 / SB366 – People convicted of animal abuse could face up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine if they knew or should have known the abuse could result in "grievous bodily harm to or the death of an animal," even if it did neither of those things. For abuse that did result in death or grievous bodily harm, the penalty would be up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Currently, animal abuse is punishable by a $500 forfeiture unless it results in the mutilation, disfigurement, or death of the animal. Then it is punishable by up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Also under current law, a judge can order a person convicted of animal abuse not to own, possess, or train any animal for up to five years. The new legislation would maintain that option for judges sentencing people for misdemeanor animal abuse; in felony cases, though, the judges would have to issue the prohibition for up to 15 years.
AB334 / SB476 – Would require police officers involved in "critical incidents" to submit to drug and alcohol testing. The testing would look for, at a minimum, alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis or cannabinoids, opiates, cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP), and anabolic steroids. "Critical incidents" are those in which an officer discharges a firearm or that results in death or great bodily harm. Amended version passed by the Assembly.
AB332 / SB471 – Would require police officers to undergo four hours of crisis training every two years. Adopted by the Assembly.
AB331 / SB470 – Would require police officers to undergo psychological testing before they are hired full-time. Amended version approved by the Assembly.
AB330 / SB474 – Would require school resource officers to receive specialized training. Approved by Assembly.
AB329 / SB472 – Would require the State Department of Justice to collect and report on the number of no-knock warrants issued and served in the state.
AB297 / SB311 – Would increase penalties for certain traffic violations when committed in an emergency or roadside response area. The fines for failing to obey certain traffic signs and signals, failing to obey some orders of traffic officers, speeding, and reckless driving would be doubled, as they are for infractions in a construction area. Drivers who violate the prohibitions in highway maintenance or construction areas, utility work areas, or emergency or roadside response areas could be $10,000 and incarcerated for up to 90 days if the actions result in injuries.
The bill also prohibits use of cell phones by drivers in emergency or roadside response areas. Violations would carry fines of $40 for the first offense and $50 to $100 for additional offenses within a year.
Both the Senate and Assembly approved an amended version of the bill.
AB250 / SB285 – Would prohibit anyone with a felony record from getting a retail tobacco license. The connection between felonies and tobacco sales is not explained.
The bill also would appear to criminalize possession of home-brewing equipment, unless it is for wine. There may be something I'm not understanding here, but the Legislative Reference Bureau summary puts it this way:
"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. A person who violates this prohibition may be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than nine months or both. 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." (Emphasis added)
The bill itself also says that "the possession of any such still, leach tub, or other apparatus is prima facie evidence of possession for the purpose of manufacturing, rectifying, distilling, refining, or purifying of intoxicating liquor other than wine."
Guess I will have to hide my carboy from the cops if this passes!
SB318 / AB322 – Would make it illegal for a fugitive from justice to possess a firearm, which already is the case under federal law. The state bill defines “fugitive from justice” as someone leaves a jurisdiction or hides out to escape prosecution or to avoid giving testimony in a criminal proceeding. Violations would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
SB317 / AB 321 – Would make it illegal under state law, as it already is under federal law, for a person convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence to possess a gun. The prohibition also would apply to people found not guilty of misdemeanor domestic violence due to mental disease or defect. Violations would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Approved by Assembly and Senate.
SB314 / AB293 – Would exempt Wisconsin-made guns that do not leave the state from the U.S. Constitution's interstate commerce clause. Passed by the Senate and Assembly. Vetoed by Gov. Evers.
This bill would prohibit enforcement of new federal laws, rules, or orders, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau summary, "if it bans or restricts semi-automatic firearms, assault weapons, or magazines; requires registration of firearms, magazines, or other firearm accessories; regulates the capacity of magazines; regulates the quantity of ammunition or bullets an individual may possess; prohibits types of ammunition or bullets; or requires the confiscation of a firearm."
Violating the prohibition generally would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine. The bill would, however, allow police to enforce new federal laws if they are identical to state laws.
Finally, the bill forbids state and local governments from using any resources to to seize guns, gun accessories, or ammunition that is legally possessed under sate law.
SB299 / AB274 – Would require a DNA sample from anyone who was placed on community supervision in another state after April 1, 2015 and who moves to Wisconsin and who will be supervised by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. It would not matter what the conviction was for – the requirement would apply to all cases.
Currently, the out-of-staters must provide DNA samples only if they were convicted on or before January 1, 2000, for a crime comparable to first- or second-degree sexual assault in Wisconsin, or they were on supervision related to something that would be a felony in Wisconsin. Passed by Assembly and Senate. Signed into law as Act 53.
SB296 / AB279 – Would make it a felony to simply be at a protest where there is significant damage done. People convicted under the law would not have to cause the damage or encourage those who do cause it, but would simply have to be somewhere in the vicinity. It's not even clear if people convicted under the bill would have to know about the damage.
It would be a misdemeanor simply to be at a "riot" where someone else poses a clear and present danger of committing property damage.
Below are the salient points.
First, the bill says a “riot” is a public disturbance that involves an unlawful assembly and one of the following:
1. An act of violence by at least one person in the unlawful assembly that constitutes a clear and present danger of property damage or personal injury or would result in property damage or personal injury.
2. A threat to commit an act of violence made by at least one person in the unlawful assembly if there was an ability to immediately execute the threat and if the threatened act would constitute a clear and present danger of property damage or personal injury or would result in property damage or personal injury.
3. An act of violence by at least one person in the unlawful assembly that substantially obstructs law enforcement or another governmental function.
It would be a misdemeanor to attend a riot, incite a riot, incite a riot, or block or obstruct a road while participating in a riot. The attendance misdemeanor would carry a mandatory-minimum of 30 days in jail.
The bill also would make it a felony, with a minimum penalty of 45 days in jail, to "knowingly" be at a "riot" that results in substantial property damage or personal injury. The maximum penalty would be 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
It also would make it a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine, to hurt a National Guard member, and a felony punishable by 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine to throw bodily fluids and the National Guard member.
SB295 / AB186 – Would strip legal immunity from police officers in civil cases arising from actions they take (or don't) while on the job. It also would make officers facing those claims more likely to personally bear the costs of defending themselves and the ultimate plaintiff's awards.
SB245 / AB185 – Would prohibit prostitution prosecutions, either as an adult or juvenile, a person under the age of 18.
SB242 / AB225 – Would make it a felony, punishable by up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine, for a person to recklessly handle, store, or treat a vaccine, drug, or biologic product used as a therapeutic treatment in a manner that may render the item unsafe, tainted, spoiled, ineffective, or unusable. The item would not actually have to be damaged for the person to be found guilty. The person, in doing the act, must create an unreasonable and substantial risk of death or great bodily harm to another and must be aware of that risk. Approved by Senate. Amended version approved by Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
SB238 / AB222 – Would require a school board, the operator of an independent charter school, or the governing body of a private school participating in a parental choice program or in the Special Needs Scholarship Program to post in a conspicuous location in a public area of each school building a sign that contains the telephone number for the local county or state agency that is responsible for receiving reports of, and conducting investigations regarding, child abuse or neglect. Approved by Senate.
SB268 / AB264 – Prohibits election workers who staff a recount from being paid a different daily wage than that paid for similar jobs at the election. Approved by Senate.
SB264 / AB249 – Extends the time allowed to hold a hearing for a juvenile in detention by excluding from the 24-hour deadline any time the clerk of court's office is closed due to inclement weather or undefined "unforeseen emergency." Passage recommended by Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
SB257 / AB251 – Makes it a felony, punishable by up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine, to impersonate a public officer, employee, or utility employee with the intent to mislead others into believing the impersonation.
SB251 / AB 141 – Prohibits discrimination based on traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles. Passage recommended by the Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
SB223 / AB187 – Would require the State Department of Corrections to reimburse counties for holding for more than 10 days inmates awaiting transfer to a state prison. The reimbursement rate would be $50 per person per day or a contract daily rate, whichever is greater.
SB219 / AB199 – Would allow courts to hold via telephone or audiovisual means any criminal proceeding or proceeding governed by the Juvenile Justice Code unless good cause is shown not to do so. The proceedings held electronically would be treated as if they occurred in open court. Amended version approved by Senate and by Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
AB219 / SB236 – Requires any COVID rebate payment received by any incarcerated person be first used to pay any restitution previously ordered.
AB214 / SB229 – Makes it a felony to "refuse, resist, or obstruct the installation of a GPS tracking device" by the Department of Corrections. The crime would be punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for 3½ years. Adopted by Senate. Passage recommended by Assembly Committee on Corrections.
SB214 / AB310 – Allows municipalities to start processing absentee ballots the day before election day - under existing law they may not be counted until election day – if certain conditions are met. Those conditions govern the hours the ballot canvassers can meet, public posting of the number of ballots counted and still to be counted, and securing equipment. The bill would prohibit absentee vote-tallying until the canvass is complete or after the polls close on election day, whichever is later. Anyone who acts in a way that could allow them to get the results or partial results early could be hit with a Class I felony charge, punishable by 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Likewise, any member of a board of canvassers or any other election official who "willfully neglects" or refuses to follow any provision of state election law also would be guilty of a Class I felony. Recommended for adoption by Senate Elections, Election Process Reform and Ethics Committee.
SB213 / AB 194 – Allows a crime related to an election to be charged and tried in any county within the area covered by any office on the ballot for the election involved. Currently, defendants in election cases are generally tried where the defendants live. Approved by the Senate.
SB212 / AB198 – Would prohibit election officials from deliberately assisting or causing the casting or counting of an invalid vote or the receipt of an invalid registration; deliberately rejecting a vote or registration the official knows to be valid; and deliberately failing to report election fraud committed by another election official. Violations of the provisions would be a Class I felony, meaning penalties of up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The bill also would block the municipal clerk from correcting errors in the certificates completed by absentee voters and signed by individual voters and witnesses. The bill also would require municipal clerks who receive ballots with improperly completed or missing certificates to return the ballot to the voter and post a notice of the defect on the voter's information page on the MyVote Wisconsin site. Amended version approved by Senate and Assembly. Vetoed by Gov. Evers.
SB211 / AB178 – Requires the Elections Commission to establish forms and instructions for absentee ballot applications. The application would have to certify facts showing that the applicant is eligible to vote in the election and would have to include the voter's municipality and county of residence; the voter's name, date of birth, and contact information, including the voter's telephone number, fax number, and e-mail address; the street address of the voter's legal voting residence; the election at which the voter intends to vote absentee; whether the voter is a military or overseas voter; the voter's confidential identification serial number if the the voter has one; the lawful method by which the voter prefers to receive the absentee ballot; and whether the voter is hospitalized. Amended version recommended for adoption by Senate Elections, Election Process Reform and Ethics Committee.
SB210 / AB170 – Establishes new rules for election observers. Under it, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau summary, observers would be prohibited from wearing any campaign material advocating voting for or against a candidate or for or against any position on a ballot question. Violators could be expelled from the site, but an observer who violates the prohibition more than once is considered to be engaged in disorderly conduct and guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, an election observer may not interfere with a voter nor hinder an election official. Violations would carry a forfeiture penalty of up to $500." Currently, observers watching the absentee ballot canvass can watch the action from an area that is three to eight feet from the table where voters announce their name and address and three to eight feet from the table where individuals are registered to vote. The bill would change the distances so that they are not more than three feet from the table where voters announce their name and address and not more than three feet from the table where individuals are registered to vote. Amended version approved by the Senate and Assembly. Vetoed by Gov. Evers.
SB209 / AB177 – Limits legal drop boxes where voters could return absentee ballots to ones attached to the building where the municipal clerk's office is located. Amended version approved by Senate.
SB207 / AB173 – Would prohibit municipal and county officials from seeking or accepting accept any money, equipment, materials, or personnel from an individual or nongovernmental to assist with election administration, except as expressly authorized by law. The State Elections Commission could accept money, but would have to distribute it throughout the state on a per-capita basis, and could only spend the money in ways approved by the Joint Finance Committee. Violations of the provisions would be a Class I felony, meaning penalties of up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Amended version approved by Senate. Vetoed by Gov. Evers.
SB206 / AB180 – Establishes requirements for a person to be considered indefinitely confined and eligible to receive a mailed absentee ballot at each election. Currently, a voter can simply sign a statement indicated indefinite confinement. The bill would require that the voter's statement claiming that he or she is indefinitely confined be made under oath; require, if the voter is under the age of 65, that the voter's statement be signed by a physician, physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse; specify that the existence of an outbreak or epidemic of a communicable disease in a voter's community does not qualify the voter as indefinitely confined; provide that a voter's status as indefinitely confined is removed every two years unless the voter submits a renewal application. The bill would require the Elections Commission to help cancel the indefinitely confined status of anyone who received it between March 12, 2020 and Nov. 6, 2020. Making a false statement on an application would be a Class I felony, punishable up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Recommended for approval by Senate Elections, Election Process Reform and Ethics Committee.
SB205 / AB179 – Requires the administrator of a nursing home or care facility to provide notice of the dates and times when voting deputies will be visiting the home or facility to allow residents to cast an absentee ballot in person. The notice would have to be given for each resident participating in the absentee voting events and provided to the relatives for whom the home or facility has contact information. The bill also would make it a Class I felony, punishable by up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine, for an employee of those institutions to influence a resident to apply for or not apply for an absentee ballot or cast or refrain from casting a ballot or advocate for a candidate. Amended version approved by the Senate and Assembly. Vetoed by Gov. Evers.
SB203 / AB192 – Would allow a voter to use a for-profit delivery service to return to a municipal clerk an absentee ballot application. Currently, voters are required to return an application by mail or in person. The bill also changes who can deliver a completed absentee ballot. Currently, the ballot may be returned to the municipal clerk by the voter or by mail. The bill would allow the ballot to be returned mail or by the voter, a member of the voter's immediate family, or the voter's legal guardian. Those people could return the ballot to the municipal clerk's office or approved voting site. If the voter is unable to deliver the absentee ballot and has no legal guardian or immediate family in the state, the voter may designate, in writing, one Wisconsin voter to deliver the ballot, but the voter could not choose a candidate on the ballot or pay the person to deliver the ballot. The bill would also prohibit a designated person from delivering more than one ballot in a single election for a person who is not an immediate family member. The bill would make it a felony for a Class I felony, punishable by 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine, for a person who is not a family member or officially designated person, to obtain a completed ballot from a voter to deliver a it to the clerk or polling place. The bill also would allow a municipality to establish a site other than the municipal clerk's office as a location for the return of completed absentee ballots, but would prohibit using that site as a place where a person could request an absentee ballot and vote. The site also would have to be as close as practicable to the municipal clerk. Amended version approved by Senate and Assembly. Vetoed by Gov. Evers.
SB193 / AB176 – Would open up law enforcement jobs to immigrants in this country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and whom the Department of Homeland Security has authorized to be hired in law enforcement.
SB188 / AB174 – Would require the Department of Corrections to recommend revocation of supervised released if a person is charged with a crime while under supervision. The type of crime does not matter, and the revocation would occur at the time of the charge, not of conviction. It does not include a provision for the person to be released if they are found not guilty or if the charge is dropped.
The bill would also prohibit a person's record from being expunged if that person had previously been convicted of a crime, including a crime for which the record had been expunged.
Finally, the bill would change the definition of "completed sentence." The law now mandates that expungement does not occur until the person has completed their sentence. And that means there can't be a subsequent offense or a supervised supervision revocation, and all the conditions of supervision must be satisfied. The bill would add that a person has not completed their sentence if new criminal charges are pending or, if on probation, they violated any rule or condition of probation. The person also would have to wait for at least a year after being put on probation before the expungement could take effect. Recommended for adoption by Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
SB175 / AB158 would increase penalties for harassing sports officials. That is now a non-criminal forfeiture, but the bill make the offense a misdemeanor punishable by nine months in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
SB165 / AB190 requires the Law Enforcement Standard Boards to regulate recruiting standards for new law enforcement, jail, and juvenile detention officers. The board now regulates the training of law enforcement officers.
The bill also requires law enforcement agencies to maintain personnel files on each employee and requires prospective employees of law enforcement, jail, or juvenile detention facility to authorize release of their files to the agency to which they are applying. The bill also would grant to agencies that release the files immunity from liability related to the release or use of the files. Approved by Assembly; tabled by Senate.
SB164 / AB130 – Establishes a state forfeiture for possession no more than 10 grams of marijuana – about a third of an ounce – at $100. The current first-offense penalty for possession of marijuana is a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months incarceration. Repeat offenses are felonies punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or 3½ years in prison, or both. The bill also would take away discretion from local governments if they opt to enforce marijuana prohibitions through their own municipal ordinances rather than state law. The bill would prohibit them from differing from the state's $100 penalty for possessing no more than 10 grams of marijuana. Municipalities also would keep control of setting penalties for possession of more than 10 grams of cannabis.
SB162 / AB 142 would broaden immunity for people who participate in child abuse reporting and investigation. From the Legislative Reference Bureau summary:
Under current law, any person or institution participating in good faith in the making of such a (child abuse) report, conducting an investigation, ordering or taking of photographs, or ordering or performing medical examinations of a child or of an expectant mother has immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, that results by reason of the action. This bill adds that this immunity extends to persons who assist in medical examinations of a child or expectant mother and to persons who otherwise, in good faith, provide information, assistance, or consultation in connection with a report, investigation, or legal intervention. Enacted into law as Act 41.
SB161 / AB143 allows the state to certify qualified residential treatment programs and establishes certain procedures that apply when a child is placed in one. This is very long (52 pages!) and complex, and has bipartisan support. Enacted into law as Act 42.
SB153 / AB133 creates a sexual assault victim's bill of rights. The bill, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau, would allow sexual assault victims, regardless of whether or not they choose to cooperate with a law enforcement agency, the right:
SB123 / AB109 would require the state Department of Justice to publish annual reports 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. Approved as Wisconsin Act 50.
SB120 / AB108 requires law enforcement to specify in their use-of-force policies when use of force must be reported and how to do so. The bill also would require officers who participate or see a use of force to report it. The bill also prohibits disciplining an officer for reporting use-of-force violations. Amended version approved by the Senate and Assembly. Signed by Gov. Evers as Act 75.
SB119 / AB111 – Would reduce shared revenue payments for municipalities or counties who reduce the budgets police departments. Amended version approved by the Senate and Assembly. Vetoed by Gov. Evers.
AB145 – Would prohibit the Department of Health Services from distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to anyone incarcerated who is under 60 years old until 21 days after the vaccine is available to the general public.
AB127 / SB199 – Would classify as second-degree sexual assault sex between a law enforcement officer and a person in their custody, whether or not that sex is consensual. The crime would be punishable by up to 25 years in prison, 15 years of extended supervision, and $100,000 in fines. The offender also would be subject to sex offender registration requirements. Approved by Senate and Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety.
SB85 / AB83 – Extends the definition of "stalking" to explicitly include attempts to contact the victim via text messaging and other electronic forms of communication, including sending and posting online content. Stalking is punishable by 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Signed into law as Wisconsin Act 28.
SB78 / AB69 – Broadens eligibility of individuals to have their criminal records expunged. Approved by the Assembly.
SB53 / AB42 – Makes 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. Approved by Senate.
SB31 / AB 14 – Would prohibit the Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling, and Social Work Examining Board from establishing as unprofessional conduct 1) discriminating on the basis of gender, gender identity, or ethnicity; 2) engaging in sexual conduct with a former client; 3) employing or promoting a treatment that attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity; and 4) failing to adequately supervise subordinates.
SB28 / AB98 – Makes 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. Signed into law as Act 13.
SB26 / AB139 – 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. Recommended for adoption by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
SB24 / AB26 – Would prohibit an out-of-home placement for a child for a child may from receiving a license if the if the 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. Also would prohibit a juvenile court from placing 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.
Fiscal estimate – The Department of Children and Family Services estimates at least five child welfare training sessions would need to be updated at a cost of $100,000 to $150,000. At least five child welfare trainings would need to be updated at a total cost of approximately $100,000 to $150,000. The bill would require changes to the statewide child welfare information system at a cost of about $500,000.
Approved as Wisconsin Act 72.
SB20 / AB45 – 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. It also increases penalties for securities violations committed against these vulnerable adults. Amended bill approved by Assembly.
SB19 / AB46 – Allows financial service providers to refuse or delay financial transactions when financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult (anyone 60 or older) is suspected. Amended bill approved by Assembly.
SB18 / AB43 – 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. Approved by the Senate.
SB17 / AB44 – Creates harsher penalties for a variety of crimes committed against "elder persons." Approved by Senate and Assembly. Signed by Gov. Evers as Act 76.
SB16 and AB6 – Imposes criminal penalties if not enough effort is made to keep a by medical staff to save children born alive following abortion or attempted abortion. Approved by both houses.
SB8 – Blocks incarcerated people from getting the COVID vaccine until they would be otherwise eligible; prohibits the Department of Health Services from prioritizing incarcerated persons within a vaccine allocation phase. Approved by the Senate.
Assembly Resolution 3 – Alleging improper voting practices, establishes "fixing them" as top priority.
Here is a look at justice-related legislation adopted by the State Legislature in the 2019-20 session. The links below will take you to blog posts summarizing new laws and providing information about sponsors, votes, and testimony.
It was not a good year for criminal justice reform in Wisconsin. The Legislature and Gov. Evers approved legislation calling for harsher penalties and the expansion of definitions to create more crimes. Legislation aimed at reigning in the incarceration industry was consistently defeated.
Evers did not veto any legislation that increased criminal penalties. He did, however, veto harmful bills that would have required the Department of Corrections to recommend revoking the probation, extended supervision and parole of anyone on such community supervision accused of new crimes. He also vetoes measures that would have increased the number of crimes for which juveniles could be incarcerated and another that would have restricted access to early release programs for people convicted of certain crimes.
Laws adopted during the 2019-20 Wisconsin legislative session:
2019 Act 8 – Delaying juvenile justice reform
2019 Act 16 – Adding a definition related to child pornography
2019 Act 31 – Mandatory minimum sentence for homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.
2019 Act 33 – Harsher penalties for trespassing on or damaging utility property
2019 Act 41 – New criminal penalties for unlicensed massage therapists
2019 Act 97 – Harsher penalties for battery to a health worker
2019 Act 106 – $13.6 million to lock up repeat drunk drivers
2019 Act 111 – Inmate possession of unauthorized anything now a felony
2019 Act 112 – Toughening penalties for intimidating a witness who is a domestic violence victim
2029 Act 132 – "Swatting" is now a felony.
2019 Act 144 – Mail theft (and porch pirating) is now its own crime.
2019 Act 161 – Money laundering is a crime
2019 Act 162 – Sex with a non-human animal is now a felony