Last year Wisconsin’s Joint Legislative Council created a Special Committee On The Review of Records Access of Circuit Court Documents – what I affectionately referred
to as the CCAP Committee. Landlords were very fortunate that in the end the committee made no recommendations to change or alter information on CCAP or limit its access by landlords or any other group. The committee’s sole recommendation was to call for the liberalization of Wisconsin’s criminal expungement statute.
The proposed bill, if passed would have done the following:
1. Defined what is meant for a court to expunge a court record (and yes, this did include removing any reference to the conviction from CCAP)
2. Clarified that an expunged record may not be considered for employment or housing matters.
3. Stated that a person may petition the circuit court at any time to expunge the following:
- any court record of a person who was under the age of 25 at the time the crime was committed and who was found guilty of a forfeiture, misdemeanor, and certain (lessor) felonies, that are punishable by up to 6 years in prison.
- any court record of a person charged with an offense punishable by a forfeiture, misdemeanor, or felony in which all charges were dismissed or for which the defendant was acquitted AND the court determines that the person will benefit by the expungement and that society will not be harmed by the expungement.
So as you can see, the proposed bill would have negatively affected landlords in the screening process and if passed would mean that a landlord would find no record of the applicant having ever been charged and convicted of crime x, y or z (or charged and acquitted or charged and the later dismissal of the case), if the applicant had applied for and received an expungement.
It also would have meant that even if the landlord somehow learned of the conviction (or acquittal or dismissal) and the later expungement, that the landlord could not use that information when making a decision on whether or not to rent to that individual.
Furthermore, it would have meant that a landlord would be precluded from inquiring as to the existence of any expunged record from a rental applicant whether that question
be on the rental application itself or verbally when talking to the applicant.
Thankfully we do not have to worry about this proposed bill being passed as it never even got introduced. In a notice dated January 20, 2012, the Director of the committee wrote to the members of the committee to inform them that their recommended bill was not approved for introduction by the Joint Legislative Council by a vote of 13 to 6. While a petition can be circulated to have the matter reconsidered, I have not heard of that happening.