Two Wisconsin Republican state lawmakers are proposing changes to the state constitution regarding bail guidelines. State Representative Cindi Duchow (R-Delafield) and State Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) are “drafting a resolution to allow court commissioners, who make decisions on bail amounts and conditions, to consider additional factors.”
A press release from Duchow explains how in her opinion, current Wisconsin law limits judges from keeping dangerous criminals off the streets. “Under current law, the Wisconsin Constitution provides that all persons are eligible for release prior to conviction to assure the person’s appearance in court, protect members of the community from serious bodily harm, or prevent the intimidation of witnesses,” Duchow’s office said. “However, commissioners and judges are not to consider the dangerousness or violence of a defendant when deciding how much cash bail to set.”
— Rep. Cindi Duchow (@RepCindiDuchow) November 23, 2021
“Wisconsin continues to see examples of people with extensive criminal histories committing crimes while out on bail. Most recently was the tragic and horrific attack on the Waukesha Christmas Parade by an individual with a long history of violent crimes,” Duchow said.
The Wisconsin Daily Star reported that several weeks prior to the Waukesha attack, Darrell Brooks, the driver of the SUV, was charged in a domestic abuse situation where he allegedly ran over the mother of his child with his vehicle, but was released on what the Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s office now says was an “inappropriately low” bail. In addition, Brooks also had a criminal record going back over two decades.
Duchow’s proposed legislation would allow a judge to examine both the seriousness of the accusation and the defendant’s criminal history, she explained. “It lets them protect members of the community from serious harm, and prevents the intimidation of witnesses so it gives the judge a lot more tools in setting bail.”
The resolution that Duchow and Wanggaard are introducing would remove restrictions placed on judges when it comes to deciding upon a bail amount and if the defendant can be denied bail by “including the consideration of the safety of the community, seriousness of offense, and previous record to reflect the needs of the present.”
According to Duchow’s press release, this is the third session in which she has introduced this bail reform legislation.
WKOW reported that, “In order to amend the constitution in Wisconsin, two consecutive legislatures must approve the resolution. If that happens, the question would then go before voters in a statewide referendum.”
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Hayley Feland is a reporter with The Minnesota Sun and The Wisconsin Daily Star | Star News Network. Follow Hayley on Twitter or like her Facebook page. Send news tips to [email protected].
Photo “Van Wanggaard” by Senator Van Wanggaard and photo “Cindi Duchow” by Wisconsin Vote.