The Wisconsin Supreme Court will start the month by hearing oral arguments in three criminal cases.
The court’s first batch of arguments will take place on April 12 in the state Capitol’s Supreme Court Hearing Room.
First up is a criminal case from Dane County: State v. Navdeep Brar. The main question in the case issue concerns whether a Madison resident, Navdeep Brar, had properly consented to a blood draw.
Brar had been arrested by Middleton Police Officer Michael Wood in 2014 and transported to the Middleton Police Department, where Wood decided a blood draw was required and discussed the relevant statutorily required form with Brar. During that discussion, Wood concluded that Brar had agreed to a blood draw and drove him to a hospital for the procedure to be performed.
Brar was later charged. He pleaded not guilty and moved for the results of the blood test to be suppressed because he had not consented to the blood test.
Initially, the motion was denied without a hearing. Later, the court held an evidentiary hearing in which Wood testified that when he had asked Brar whether he would consent to the test, Brar had replied, “of course.“ However, the audio-visual recording of Brar and Wood’s conversation was deemed intelligible by a court reporter. Another court reporter transcribed the recording, but Dane County Circuit Court Judge John Markson adopted part of Wood’s version of the conversation and denied Brar’s motion in 2015.
Brar appealed that order, which the Court of Appeals affirmed in July, agreeing that Brar had consented to the blood draw and that no warrant was required. Shortly afterward, Brar filed a petition for review with the high court, and the justices accepted the case in January.
In this case, the state is being represented by David Perlman, an attorney at the state Department of Justice. Brar is being represented by Tracey Wood and Sarah Schmeiser of Tracey Wood & Associates, Madison.
The second case up for oral argument before the justices is State v. Adam Blackman. Like the previous case, this one will look at whether law-enforcement officials had properly obtained consent for a blood draw under the state’s implied-consent law.
In 2013, Adam Blackman had been involved in a collision with a bicyclist. The police asked him for consent, informing him that if he refused them, his drivers’ license would be revoked. Blackman consented.
Blackman later moved to suppress the result of the blood test. Fond du Lac County District Court Judge Gary Sharpe granted the motion, finding that Blackman had been coerced.
Prosecutors appealed the decision, and the Court of Appeals handed down a reversal, finding that Blackman had not been coerced. The appeals court also found that Blackman had been given a simple choice: he could submit a sample or he could refuse to provide one and suffer the consequences.
Blackman petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court for review in September, and the justices accepted the case in December. Blackman, among other things, is arguing that the state’s implied-consent law is unconstitutional because it lets law-enforcement officials circumvent due process and coerce consent to an unconstitutional search and seizure.
The state is being represented in this case by Michael Sanders of the DOJ. Blackman is being represented by Dennis Melowski of Melowski & Associates, Sheboygan, and Chad Lanning of Lubar & Lanning, Milwaukee.
The final case scheduled for oral argument on April 12 is State v. Ernesto Lazo Villamil. The main question here is whether Ernesto Villamil was properly sentenced and charged with a felony.
Vilamill rear-ended a vehicle in 2012, killing the driver. He was charged and convicted of a felony charge of causing a death while driving without a driver’s license. He was sentenced to three years of prison and three years of extended supervision. He filed a postconviction motion, which was denied after a hearing, and appealed.
The Court of Appeals found in July that the Villamil was properly charged with a felony and that the statute under which he was convicted was constitutional. However, it sent the case back to the trial court for resentencing because records did not show that Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Donald Hassin had considered the required sentencing factors.
Villamil petitioned in October for a review of the decision, and the justices accepted the case in January. On appeal. Villamil has argued that the statute under which he was convicted is ambiguous and that he should have been charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony. He is also arguing that judges should have discretion to consider the required sentencing factors listed in the statutes governing crimes while driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license.
The state is being represented in the case by Thomas Balistreri of the DOJ. Villamil is being represented by Michelle Velasquez of the State Public Defender’s Office. Follow @erikastrebel