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Committee approves added prosecution for family members who aid suspects

A bill that would allow prosecutors to charge family members who hide or aid wanted suspects from apprehension moved one step closer to approval Thursday afternoon.

Assembly Bill 274, introduced in September by Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, would remove exceptions already in the law for a person’s spouse, siblings, parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren who are exempt from being charged. It also proposes stricter penalties for those who harbor or aid a suspect for more serious crimes, such as those that mandate a life sentence.

The Assembly’s criminal justice committee held a public hearing for the bill Dec. 12. The bill passed on party lines, with little discussion, during an executive session Thursday. Reps. Evan Goyke, Fred Kessler and LaTonya Johnson, all Democrats from Milwaukee, voted against the bill.

Kessler said before the vote that he was “really troubled with this bill because I think requiring reaching that far into a family’s situation is far too difficult a task.”

The bill next will be taken up by the full Assembly. If passed, it would impose stricter penalties for those who harbor or aid a suspect for more serious crimes, such as those that mandate a life sentence. Currently, a person found guilty faces up to 3-1/2 years in prison. If passed, the bill’s changes would mean a defendant could face up to 10 years in prison.

The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon. A public hearing for SB 232 was held in September by the Committee on Transportation, Public Safety, and Veterans and Military Affairs.

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