Governor Walker signed four bills into law in Green Bay today, aimed at protecting victims and holding criminal offenders accountable.
Assembly Bill 552 eliminates the time limit to prosecute the crimes of first degree sexual assault, and attempted first degree sexual assault.
"Victims of violent sexual attacks suffer serious physical and emotional harm," Governor Walker said in signing the bill. "Those victims and prosecutors now have the ability to pursue felony charges when they are ready, or when they feel they have the evidence they need, regardless of how much time has passed."
Before Assembly Bill 552, felony prosecution of first-degree sexual assault and attempted first-degree sexual assault involving adults had to happen within six years of the crime. Current law already exempts first and second-degree homicide and first-degree sexual assault of a child from the statute of limitations.
Governor Walker thanked State Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) and State Senator Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) for their work on the bill.
Assembly bill 232 clarifies and strengthens the rights of crime victims and witnesses. This bill prohibits public agents and agencies from disclosing information that could identify the victim or witness for purposes unrelated to official business. It also allows victims and witnesses to assert their rights in court without having to rely on the Crime Victim Rights Board, and offers recourse if they feel their rights have been violated.
"Keeping Wisconsin safe, means ensuring crime victims and those who witness crimes know they will be treated with dignity and respect within the system," Governor Walker said. "I want to thank State Representative Andre Jacque (R-Bellevue) and State Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) for working to protect these rights."
Assembly Bill 100 increases penalties for certain child sex crimes, and protects child victims by limiting reproduction of certain visual evidence.
"This bill sends a message to child sex predators that even their attempts to solicit children online will not be tolerated," Governor Walker said.
Under the bill, anyone convicted of attempting to contact a child under the age of 16 online with the intent of sexual contact could face a felony punishment as if the crime was completed. This bill also requires law enforcement to retain custody of graphic images involving children. As is the case in federal procedures, defense attorneys may view the evidence at that location, but may not copy or remove the images, except in limited cases.
Governor Walker thanked Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, State Representative Tony Staskunas (D-West Allis) and State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) for their work on this bill.
Senate Bill 399 relieves a major burden on victims in the criminal justice process by allowing hearsay evidence at preliminary hearings. It is very rare for a judge presiding over a preliminary hearing to decide a case will not proceed to trial. Most often, defendants waive the right to a preliminary hearing in order to expedite the process.
"In some cases, the preliminary hearing has been used as an opportunity to bully and intimidate victims, outside of the presence of a jury," Governor Walker said. "This allows the court to consider whether there is sufficient evidence to continue the case, without doing unnecessary additional harm to those victims."
This bill may also decrease costs for law enforcement, by reducing the number of officers required to be present at a preliminary hearing.
Governor Walker thanked Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, State Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) and State Representative Andre Jacque (R-Bellevue) for their work on the bill.