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Criminal code updates inch forward

Revisions to Wisconsin’s criminal code, a project 20 years in the making, are getting closer to the state Legislature.

A 300-page proposal is before the Wisconsin Judicial Council, which is expected to review the proposal prior to a September meeting, said staff attorney April Southwick.

“It’s a monster,” she said. “But I know it’s a priority with the council for this upcoming year.”

Among the proposed changes are eliminating preliminary exams in felony cases, speeding up resolution in misdemeanor cases by using citations rather than formal arrests and eliminating unnecessary pretrial detention or court appearances.

The project began in 1992 but was significantly delayed by the loss of the council’s two support staff positions in 1995, Southwick said. The process regained momentum when Southwick came on in 2008, she said.

The goal of the revisions, Southwick said, is to reflect current procedures in the statutes and present them in a manner that makes them easy to find and understand.

University of Wisconsin Law School Professor David Schultz drafted the proposal as chairman of the council’s criminal procedure committee.

The drafting committee included district attorneys, assistant attorneys general, public defenders, private defense attorneys, judges and academics.

The proposal was put into draft bill form by the Legislative Reference Bureau and was circulated to the full Judicial Council in June.

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