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Legislature addresses concerns of law enforcement

J.B. Van Hollen

One of my roles as attorney general is to work with the legislature on behalf of Wisconsin’s law enforcement, prosecutors and crime victims.

The 2013-2014 Regular Session adjourned in April and many bills that the Department of Justice drafted, or supported with your help, were adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor.

Here is a sampling:

Act 223 was drafted by the DOJ to provide the department a statutory mechanism to provide courts and law enforcement agencies access to orders not to possess a firearm resulting from certain mental health proceedings. As many of you brought to my attention, prior law did not allow courts to access mental health orders when considering the return of firearms to restraining order subjects at the termination of those restraining orders; nor did prior law allow law enforcement to access mental health orders when dealing with subjects in possession of firearms.

Act 214 is the product of efforts between the DOJ and the Law Enforcement Standards Board to update and improve many of the professional standards governing law enforcement employment and to enable the Board to be more responsive to needed training improvements. Act 214 also amends the DNA at arrest law so that agencies submit samples to the DOJ upon collection rather than storing and securing samples until courts determine the samples can be analyzed.

Acts 194, 198, and 200 address Wisconsin’s heroin problem. Act 194 offers immunity from prosecution for possession of a controlled substance to someone who brings to a health care facility, or summons assistance for, a person suffering from an overdose.

Act 198 updates criminal and regulatory law concerning prescription drugs and controlled substances to encourage and facilitate local drug disposal programs.

Act 200 authorizes certain first responders, EMTs, law enforcement, and firefighters to administer Narcan or another opioid antagonist to a person suffering from an opioid-related overdose.

Act 362 represents the DOJ’s latest efforts to address human trafficking and other sensitive crimes. Some key provisions include broadening the definition of “commercial sex act”; allowing evidence of similar acts to be admitted in pending trafficking and child sex crime cases; expanding the types of property subject to seizure and forfeiture, and streamlining forfeiture proceedings, in trafficking and child sex crime cases. It encourages deferred prosecutions and special dispositions for those charged with or convicted of prostitution resulting from being a victim of trafficking.

Act 264 modifies the current Crime Alert Network to ensure law enforcement reports of missing adults with mental disabilities or dementia are disseminated to people engaged in broadcasting or outdoor advertising.

I’m proud of the DOJ’s efforts and thank those in criminal justice and public safety who work with us and with legislators to make Wisconsin a safer place to live.

For more information on the recently concluded legislative session or to share your thoughts, concerns or ideas about the state of the law, contact my office at 608-266-1221.

J.B. Van Hollen is Wisconsin’s attorney general. He also served as the U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Wisconsin and district attorney in Ashland and Bayfield counties.