Study Committee on Bail & Conditions of Pretrial Release Discusses Risk Assessments Data, Draft Ideas

The Study Committee on Bail & Conditions of Pretrial Release had their third meeting on Oct. 16. The committee heard from two presenters and began to develop ideas for potential draft legislation updating Wisconsin’s pretrial detention processes.

First, the Wisconsin Department of Justice gave a presentation on using data, research, and information for informed pretrial decision making. Next, the vice president of the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies discussed the effectiveness and positive results from other states that use risk assessment data programs to determine pretrial release with little to no use of cash bail.

After the presenters, the committee engaged in a few hours of discussion on potential changes to pretrial detention procedure. The committee asked Legislative Council to draft language for several changes including:

  • Expanding the types of situations where individuals are eligible for pretrial detention. (Currently only certain crimes are eligible for pretrial detention).
  • Eliminating the rules of evidence at pretrial detention hearings (i.e. rights of confrontation, calling witnesses, cross-examination, and rules of admissibility of evidence in Wis. Stat. § 969.035(6)(c)). Committee members viewed eliminating these rules as making the pretrial detention hearing process less burdensome but emphasized the accused should still have the right to representation by counsel.
  • Eliminating the requirement that the state prove at the pretrial hearing by clear and convincing evidence that the accused committed the crime (Wis. Stat. § 969.035(6)(a)). The committee wanted to leave in place requirements that the state prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant previously committed a violent crime and that releasing the defendant would be a danger to the community.
  • Adjusting the timing requirements for pretrial release hearings.
  • Eliminating/significantly reducing money bail, either by changing the constitution or by making the pretrial detention process easier than the current money bail process.
  • Incorporating risk assessment tools into the statutes.
  • Redefining bail jumping as failure to appear at court only. The committee wanted to reduce bail jumping penalties for minor violations to decrease jail populations and burdens on law enforcement.

The committee had concerns with the political hurdles of amending the constitution, so they requested Legislative Council draft a bill that makes statutory changes without amending the state constitution in addition to bill drafts that do incorporate constitutional changes.

The committee will meet again on Nov. 13 to discuss the bill drafts and potentially hear from experts on the possibility of eliminating cash bail.

Committee members and documents

Summary of August meeting