Aug. 26, 2015 – At a joint public hearing last week, legislators and stakeholders spent several hours discussing proposed changes, which have been in the works for more than 20 years, to Wisconsin’s criminal procedure code. Members of both the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety and the Assembly Committee on Judiciary heard testimony on Assembly Bill 90 (AB 90) and its companion bill, Senate Bill 82 (SB 82).
The legislation was introduced at the request of the Judicial Council, which has been methodically working on specific changes to the criminal code since 1992. At the hearing, University of Wisconsin Law Professor David Schultz and Wisconsin Judicial Council Attorney April Southwick explained to committee members that the last major revision of the criminal code occurred in 1970.
Schultz and Southwick said that with the modernization of case law, an overhaul of the criminal code was long overdue.
Last session, the Judicial Council was successful in getting legislators to hold a public hearing on the proposed changes, but lingering concerns over various portions of the bill hindered any possibilities of it passing. To address these ongoing issues, a series of hearings and meetings occurred over the past year to gain consensus on some of the more controversial provisions.
During last week’s hearing, Southwick indicated that more than 80 provisions were highlighted and discussed by various stakeholders. A large number of those issues were ironed out through expanded discussion, research and drafting new language.
Cale Battles is a government relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. He can be reached at org cbattles wisbar wisbar cbattles org, or by phone at (608) 250-6077.
Some groups, including the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association and the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office, oppose the current bill draft because of some outstanding issues related to restitution and storage of evidence.
Lead sponsors of the bill, Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon), said that they want to see a final version of the bill pass this session.
Both legislators urged stakeholders to resolve all remaining issues so that the bill can move forward.
The Legislature’s fall session runs from September to early November, with a spring session scheduled to begin in January and conclude in early April.