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Judicial Council considering next push for criminal code rewrite

By: Eric Heisig//May 12, 2014//

Judicial Council considering next push for criminal code rewrite

By: Eric Heisig//May 12, 2014//

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The Wisconsin Judicial Council will discuss a proposed rewriting of the state’s criminal code during its meeting Friday.

The rewrite – which the council worked on for more than 20 years – was put forth as a more than 350-page bill during the most recent legislative session. The bill stalled after receiving two public hearings.

Friday’s council meeting, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in room 328NW of the state Capitol, will be the first since the legislative session concluded. The council is made up of judges, attorneys, legislators and court personnel.

Council member and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, has said he intends to introduce it again when the legislature reconvenes early next year. In the meantime, he said the council will work with groups that would be affected by proposed changes, to ensure their needs are discussed and possibly addressed.

Ott acknowledged the bill’s length was a lot to parse through, stating that was one of the reasons he stopped pushing for it in the past session.

Council attorney April Southwick said the criminal procedure committee, which is working on potential changes to the bill, will update the full council during the meeting. She said she expects the full council to vote on these changes during a meeting later this year.

The Wisconsin District Attorney’s Association has said they support parts of the proposal, but oppose measures such as doing away with preliminary hearings.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen opposes the bill. According to an Oct. 11 memo from his office, the current code generally is “well understood by practitioners and enables the fair, just and speedy resolution of criminal cases.”

Other proposed changes include allowing a misdemeanor citation to be used as a criminal complaint and specifying that a jury verdict must be unanimous.

The criminal code last was updated in 1969.

At Friday’s meeting, the council also plans to discuss its request for the next biennial budget.

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