Is It Time For Bail Reform In Wisconsin?

First, it’s important to understand what bail jumping is. Many people think that people are only charged with bail jumping if they leave town trying to evade a criminal charge. In reality, bail jumping is much more expansive than that in Wisconsin. Any violation of the conditions of bail can result in bail jumping charges. If someone is restricted from drinking and they are caught having one beer, they could be charged with bail jumping. Go someplace you’re not supposed to? Bail jumping. Miss a meeting? Bail jumping. And these bail jumping charges can be stacked on top of each other.

Are Bail Jumping Charges Used Unfairly?

With this in mind, it’s not surprising that bail jumping is the most commonly charged crime in Wisconsin. Some are calling for bail reform, saying that bail jumping charges are unfair and are being used to manipulate accused parties into plea bargains they might not have made otherwise. Look at it this way: If someone has several felony bail jumping charges, each with its own intense penalties, due to a minor slipup, they might be more likely to plead guilty to the original charge in order to have the bail jumping charges dismissed.

What Would Bail Reform Look Like?

According to an article from the La Crosse Tribune, the objective would be to adjust bail jumping laws so that the punishment fits the crime. That would mean that instead of bail jumping charges being automatic felonies if the original charge was a felony, that all bail jumping charges would be misdemeanors. Lawmakers pursuing bail reform would also reduce the maximum sentence for misdemeanor bail jumping from the current nine months to 90 days.

Perhaps more importantly, the scope of bail jumping charges would be reduced. Bail jumping would only be charged if the accused intentionally skipped a court date or violated a protective condition of the bail. So instead of being charged for even a minor rule violation, it would only be charged, for example, if the accused violated an order to stay away from the alleged victim.

Bail reform is just one piece of the larger criminal justice reform discussions that are currently taking place in Wisconsin and nationwide, and the one thing that is certain is that there will be changes.