Press Release: News Release July 2003: New sentencing guidelines drafted:

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    News Release July 2003: New sentencing guidelines drafted

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    For Immediate Release
      CONTACT: Christi Powers
    State Bar of Wisconsin
    (800) 444-9404, ext. 6025
    org cpowers wisbar wisbar cpowers org

    New charging guidelines drafted
    Goal is to increase balance on how laws are enforced in Milwaukee area

    MADISON, July 9, 2003 - A group of 19 municipalities, including the Milwaukee County district attorney's office, the Milwaukee City Attorney's Office and the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department, have released a new set of guidelines on how defendants are charged in non-felony cases. The year-long project resulted in new standards on how offenses are charged and seeks to balance how laws are enforced in Milwaukee County

    "To have justice, similarly situated defendants must be treated similarly," said E. Michael McCann, Milwaukee district attorney. "Where variations existed between the city and some suburbs on how to treat various types of miscreancy offenses, now all will be treated in the same fashion."

    Overseen by the Milwaukee Bar Association's community relations committee and the State Bar of Wisconsin's diversity outreach committee, the Guidelines for the Review of Crimes and Ordinance Violations in Milwaukee County were compiled by a group of police chiefs, prosecutors, municipal judges and attorneys from Milwaukee, West Allis, Glendale, Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, South Milwaukee, and Oak Creek. When implemented, the guidelines are designed to ensure equal treatment of similar offenses and save taxpayer dollars.

    Whitefish Bay Police Chief Gary Mikulec said that after a review of last year's citations, a significant number could have been referred to municipal court rather than the district attorney's office where heavy caseloads often result in delays. Mikulec said nearly $25,000 could be saved annually if uniform guidelines are implemented.

    "Not only is this beneficial in tight times, but it provides a strong working tool for law enforcement and criminal prosecutors while ensuring the equitable treatment of defendants," Mikulec said.

    Other local law enforcement officials participating on the project also see the benefits of the collaborative effort.

    "The Milwaukee Police Department fully endorses the new guidelines and I believe they will help to ensure equitable prosecution throughout Milwaukee County," said Milwaukee Police Chief Arthur L. Jones.

    Fox Point Police Chief Thomas Czaja, President of the Milwaukee County Law Enforcement Association, indicated that while law enforcement will reduce overhead, municipal courts may see an increase in forfeitures. He emphasized that all charges are subject to discretion, and will be handled on a case-by-case basis. "If implemented consistently," he said, "the guidelines will not only increase fairness in how defendants are charged, but also serve to reduce officer overtime. It will triage criminal cases referring only the most serious to the district attorney."

    Patricia Gorence, a U.S. District Court magistrate judge, and Carl Ashley, a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge, spearheaded the project funded by a Public Trust and Confidence in the Justice System grant. Both judges received distinguished service awards from the Milwaukee Bar on June 26.

    Ashley remarked, "Everyone understands that the guidelines are just that--a guide. However, there was clear agreement that people in Milwaukee County should be treated similarly regarding like offenses. I believe that the guidelines will attempt to do just that."

    For more information on guideline content, call Carl Ashley (414) 278-4086 or Patricia Gorence (414) 297-4165.

    The State Bar of Wisconsin is the mandatory professional association, created by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, for attorneys who hold a law license in Wisconsin. With more than 20,000 members, the State Bar aids the courts in improving the administration of justice, provides continuing legal education for its members to help them maintain their expertise, and assists Wisconsin lawyers in carrying out community service initiatives to educate the public about the legal system and the value of lawyers.