Senator Felzkowski and Rep. Callahan both vote to amend bail reform
Now the issue is up to voters and will be decided on the April ballot
TINA L. SCOTT
The Wisconsin State Senate convened on Jan. 17 to vote on a constitutional amendment regarding bail reform, which will allow judges to consider public safety and the totality of the circumstances when setting bail conditions, a press release from Senator Mary Felzkowski’s office said.
Senator Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk) voted with the majority in favor of the resolution.
“Under our current Constitution, the only reason for which a judge may include monetary conditions when considering bail is to ensure the accused returns to court,” the release said. “This constitutional amendment will provide judges with the ability to consider the following when setting monetary bail conditions for persons accused of a violent crime: previous conviction of a violent crime, the probability that the accused will fail to appear in court, the need to protect members of the community from serious harm, the need to prevent the intimidation of witnesses, and the potential affirmative defenses of the accused.”
“Wisconsin communities cannot prioritize public safety when the hands of our judges are tied,” Sen. Felzkowski said. “Our state Constitution is a sacred document, and changes to it aren’t taken lightly. But enough is enough – it’s beyond time to give our courts the flexibility they need to set bail conditions that help keep the public safe.”
In similar fashion, on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, the Wisconsin State Assembly convened in Madison and State Representative Calvin Callahan (R-Tomahawk) and his Assembly colleagues also voted to amend the Wisconsin State Constitution. “Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 2 would allow judges to consider all factors in a case when determining conditions for pretrial release for a defendant, including criminal history and threat level to the community,” a press release from Rep. Callahan’s office said.
“We have seen time and again instances where judges are restricted in their ability to consider the entirety of a situation when setting bail,” said Rep. Callahan. “This amendment will help to protect our communities while also ensuring the right of defendants to reasonable bail. I hope to see the people of Wisconsin approve this important amendment.”
“Homicide and other violent crime rates have spiked in Wisconsin in recent years, and many offenders were out on bail for another felony offense at the time,” the release from Rep. Callahan’s office said. “In Milwaukee County, 1 out of every 5 murder or attempted murder suspects was out on bail for another felony offense. SJR 2 will bring Wisconsin in line with the 48 other states that permit courts to consider ‘dangerousness’ in some way when setting bail.”
Both chambers of the Wisconsin State Legislature have now approved this constitutional amendment in two consecutive legislative sessions.
Now the resolution to amend the Wisconsin State Constitution to effect this change will go to the voters for their approval in a statewide referendum on the ballot in the upcoming April 4, 2023, election.