Tristan is a shareholder with the law firm of Petrie+Stocking and focuses his practice in the area of landlord-tenant law representing landlords and property management companies throughout Wisconsin.
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New CCAP Bill Introduced
A new CCAP bill (Senate Bill 526) was introduced on January 30, 2014 by Senators Grothman, Taylor, Schultz, Harris, and Risser. A public hearing has already been held.
Current law allows for any criminal charge to remain on CCAP even if the charge was dismissed.
This new bill, if passed, would require the Director of CCAP to remove a case involving a misdemeanor or felony from CCAP within 120 days after being notified that the case or charge has been dismissed (and not read into the record for the purposes of sentencing the defendant), the defendant was found not guilty, or the case was overturned on appeal and dismissed.
I am a fan of open records and not removing information about open records that are on CCAP. While I personally do not have a problem with a criminal charge being removed if the defendant was found not guilty or the case was overturned on appeal and dismissed, I still believe that doing so still interferes with open records, but I can bite my tongue nonethless.
On the other hand, I have a huge problem (and concern) with a criminal case being removed from CCAP solely because it was dismissed.
Many people unfamiliar with the criminal justice system assume that if a case was dismissed that that means that it was filed in error. While that certainly does occur, that is not the typical situation in which a case is dismissed. The majority of criminal cases are dismissed, not becasue they were impropely filed, but rather because the victim witness did not appear at trial to testify against the defendant and therefore the State could not prove their case. This happens quite often especially in crimes involving domestic violence.
When I was younger (and stupider) I used to do some criminal defense work. I finally quit being a criminal defense attorney after I represented a young man that was charged for the 8th time with Domestic Violence - Battery. It was alleged that he beat up his girlfriend. All 8 times it was alleged that he beat up his girlfriend. I attempted to meet with my client to prepare for trial. He refused, just smiled, and told me that it was not necessary. I told him that I could not represent him properly if we didnt prepare. He told me again not to worry and that there would not be a trial. I reminded him that there was a "no contact" order in place and that he was not allowed to contact the alleged victim so how would he know if she was or was not going to appear in court to testify against him. He smiled and said he would never do anything against the law.
The trial date came and the victim did not show. As a result the District Attorney was forced to dismiss the charge against my client as without the victim the DA could not meet their burden. My client smiled at me and said "See, I told you you didnt need to worry - no trial." He then walked out of the court room.
Even though I was young and stupid, I was not naive. I knew very well that this individual most likley had talked to the victim and either threatened to harm her if she came to court to testify against him or he actually did harm her to make sure she understood. The same thing probably happened the prior 7 occassions as well.
I would not want to rent to this person.
Under this new CCAP bill, those 8 criminal charges for DV-Battery against my client would be removed from CCAP and a future landlord would not even know they had been filed or that s/he would be renting to a person that felt it was acceptable to beat up his girlfriend whenever he couldn't control his anger management issues.
If you have similar examples from propspective rental applicants that you have screened recently, please forward the details to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's make sure the politicians are aware that this type of behavior does actually occur and how it may hurt our industry, if such a law is passed.