Equitable estoppel cannot be applied to preclude the State from prosecuting a criminal charge.
“We agree with the State that the public interest would be unduly harmed if the State were equitably estopped from prosecuting criminal charges. There is a compelling societal interest in convicting and punishing criminal offenders. See Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 426 (1986); State v. Ward, 2009 WI 60, ∂43 n.5, 318 Wis. 2d 301, 767 N.W.2d 236.
“On balance, the public interests at stake will always outweigh any potential injustice to a criminal defendant where he or she seeks to evade prosecution via equitable estoppel. This is especially true because defendants already benefit from various due process protections in the event of either inaction or action by the State that is allegedly unjust. Thus, extension of the equitable estoppel doctrine is unnecessary.”
Reversed and Remanded.
Recommended for publication in the official reports.
2010AP1303-CR State v. Drown
Dist. III, Oconto County, Judge, J., Hoover, J.
Attorneys: For Appellant: Evans, John A., Oconto; Kassel, Jeffrey J., Madison; For Respondent: Fite, Shelley, Madison