Supporting Survivors at Every Step
DOJ Receives $2 million for Sexual Assault Kit Initiative and to Improve System Response to Sexual Assault
Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) has received $2 million from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to continue Wisconsin’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (WiSAKI) and ensure previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits that have accumulated in law enforcement agencies and hospitals over previous decades are processed. To date, DOJ has received the most grant funding of any applicant to BJA for a sexual assault kit initiative.
In less than three years, DOJ and local law enforcement will process all previously unsubmitted kits and bring justice to sexual assault survivors. Testing the kits is only the beginning of this important process and with the funding the granting authority has entrusted us with for a third time, survivors, the entire Wisconsin criminal justice system, and the public will be able to see justice is served.
DOJ will utilize the new resources to improve system response to sexual assault, including instituting a training program to equip more law enforcement officers, prosecutors, sexual assault nurse examiners, and victim advocates with the specialized knowledge and resources needed to properly respond to sexual assault cases. The grant also provides funding for DOJ to implement a sexual assault kit tracking system that will track a kit from the point of manufacture, to hospitals, law enforcement, and through submission to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory (WSCL). This system will offer an option for survivors to access information about their kit and will provide a mechanism for the ongoing auditing of sexual assault kit submissions.
To date, out of the 6,394 sexual assault kits inventoried, 4,069 kits are currently designated for testing. Of the kits designated for testing, testing is complete on 436 kits. Another 1,626 kits are currently being tested at the external lab or are waiting to be tested at the external lab.
Wisconsin Collects 30+ Tons on Drug Take Back Day
60,257 lbs. of unused medications were collected at Drug Take Back events on Saturday, October 28, 2017, at nearly 350 permanent drug collection receptacles located throughout the state. Wisconsin collected more unused medications than Illinois and Indiana combined, and had more law enforcement agencies participate in the biannual event than any other state in the country.
Wisconsin families heard the message – the opioid epidemic starts in your medicine cabinet – and they got to work collecting and disposing of unused and unwanted medications at permanent drug disposal boxes throughout our state. And without the help of the DEA, local law enforcement, hospitals, and pharmacies, Drug Take Back Day wouldn’t have been nearly as successful. Communities are engaged in fighting the opioid epidemic, and they’re making sure these powerful medications don’t fall into the hands of someone struggling with or prone to addiction.
Statewide, 266 police and sheriffs’ departments hosted more than 130 Drug Take Back events on October 28, and have provided 349 permanent drug disposal drop boxes, giving citizens a convenient, environmentally-friendly, and anonymous way to dispose of unused medications all year long. Proper drug disposal is essential to preventing prescription painkiller abuse. Research has shown that 70% of initial painkiller abuse starts when drugs are obtained improperly from family members or friends.
SANE Nurses Critical to State’s Sexual Assault Response Strategy
International Forensic Nurses are being celebrated around the globe this month and when I was elected attorney general, I pledged to make Wisconsin’s sexual assault nurse examiner training program more robust, because these nurses are critical to a community’s ability to provide survivors of sexual assault dignified, compassionate care and treatment. The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Medical Forensics Program trains nurses to become Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), who perform the medical forensic exam following a sexual assault.
DOJ has been training SANE nurses since 2014, including 161 nurses in adult sexual assault exams; 45 nurse in pediatric sexual assault exams; and 88 nurses in both adult and pediatric sexual assault exams.
In May 2015, I hired a SANE coordinator to strengthen the state’s only in-person SANE nurse training program and increased required training hours from 40 hours to 46 hours, including training in victim responses, crisis intervention, collaboration with community agencies, and medicolegal specimen collection, documentation, and photography. The SANE nurse training program has also been expanded to include human trafficking, adverse childhood experiences, mock trial, and photo case studies.
The SANE Coordinator works closely with the DOJ Bureau of Training & Standards staff, the DOJ Victim Services Training Officer, WI-AFN, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA), and medical facilities and training faculty to create SANE programs around the state and to provide consistent training standards and information regarding the SANE program.
Calling for Heightened Privacy Protections for Crime Victims
Sen. Petrowski and Rep. Spiros Bill Will Protect Crime Victims’ Mental Health Records
Sexual assault survivors have experienced unthinkable trauma and tragedy, and the forced disclosure of sensitive health records makes participating in the criminal justice system and holding an abuser accountable almost impossible.
In October, Senator Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) and Representative John Spiros (R-Marshfield) introduced Senate Bill 492/ Assembly Bill 570. A product of three years of work, this bill will protect the rights of crime victims to keep their privileged mental health records confidential and provide clear guidance as to when these sensitive records may be accessed in court.
With this bill, victims and survivors don’t have to choose between experiencing further trauma or holding an abuser accountable.
Under current law, and most often in sexual assault or domestic violence cases, criminal defendants seek access to victims’ privileged mental health records. SB 492/AB 570, the product of controlling Wisconsin case law, provides a clear procedure for all parties to follow when seeking access to a crime victim’s private mental health care records and clarifies the required burden defendants must meet in order to obtain an in-camera review of those records.
DOJ Provides $27.4 million for Crime Victim Services in Every County in Wisconsin
One of my core duties as attorney general is to provide assistance to crime victims in Wisconsin, but I can only provide this assistance with the help of hundreds of victim advocates in Wisconsin who are committed to improving the lives of survivors of unspeakable tragedies.
DOJ’s Office of Crime Victim Services (OCVS) is providing $27.4 million to crime victim services in all 72 counties in Wisconsin through September 2018.
This funding from DOJ will keep crime victims services at the local level available to citizens across the state, ensuring that those who have been violated, mistreated, and wronged are not left behind during what is likely one of the worst experiences in a person’s life.
Grant funding through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) victim assistance grant money is allocated by DOJ to private and public agencies, including district attorney’s offices, to support direct services to victims of crime. Services provided under this program include safety planning, community service referrals, counseling, crisis intervention, and legal advocacy.
Ask the Office of Open Government
Question: How long does an authority need to keep its records?
Answer: Records retention is a subject that is generally related to, but different from, the access requirements imposed by the public records law. The public records law only addresses how long an authority must keep its records once an authority receives a public records request. When a requester submits a public records request, the authority is obligated to preserve the requested records until after the request is granted or until at least 60 days after the request is denied (90 days if the requester is a committed or incarcerated person).
If the authority receives written notice that a requester has commenced a mandamus action (an action to enforce the public records law) regarding records, the authority may not destroy the records until after the court order relating to those records is issued and the deadline to appeal that order has passed. If the court order in a mandamus action is appealed, the authority may not destroy the records until a court order resolving the appeal is issued. If the court orders production of any record and the order is not appealed, the record may not be destroyed until after the request for inspection or copying has been granted. An authority does not violate this provision of the public records law by destroying an identical copy of an otherwise available record.
Other than this, the public records law does not address how long an authority must keep its records, and the public records law cannot be used to address an authority’s alleged failure to retain records required to be kept under other laws. Record retention is governed by other statutes. Wisconsin Stat. § 16.61 addresses the retention of records for state agencies, and Wis. Stat. § 19.21 deals with record retention for local government entities. Most often, record retention schedules, created in accordance with these statutes, govern how long an authority must keep its records and what it must do with them after the retention period ends. For example, after the retention period has ended, a retention schedule may authorize the authority to destroy a record or transfer it to the Wisconsin Historical Society. These schedules apply to groups or categories of records called records series. The Wisconsin Public Records Board’s website has additional information on record retention.
November Oral Arguments at the Wisconsin Supreme Court
State v. Arberry
The issue before the Wisconsin Supreme Court is whether a defendant can ask the circuit court to find her eligible for expungement in a sentence modification or whether she must bring up expungement at sentencing. In this case, the defendant, Diamond J. Arberry, stole merchandise from retail stores in the mall. She pled guilty and at sentencing, expungement was not discussed. Post-conviction, Arberry moved to have her conviction expunged. The court denied the motion, concluding that it can only consider expungement at sentencing and even if a party had asked for expungement at sentencing, the court would not have granted it. On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s order denying expungement. It concluded that a court cannot consider expungement outside of sentencing.
The State argues that the circuit court and court of appeals are right when they held that expungement can only be considered at sentencing based on Wis. Stat. § 973.015 and State v. Matasek. The supreme court will decide whether the defendant can refrain from asking for expungement until after she begins serving her sentence and whether allowing that procedure undermines the legislature’s intent in Wis. Stat. § 973.015. This case will be argued by Assistant Attorney General Christine Remington on November 14.
State v. Bartlet
This case involves the issue of when a suspect is in police custody under Miranda v. Arizona. Bartelt argues that, during an otherwise non-custodial police interview, his confession to a crime placed him in custody, and therefore the police were required to honor his request for counsel. The State argues that the confession alone, without any response from law enforcement, did not place Bartelt in custody, and so the police were not required to honor any request for counsel. In the alternative, the State argues that Bartelt’s request for counsel was not clear, and so, even if he was in custody, the police did not need to honor his request.
The court will hear argument in this case on November 14.
In Re the Commitment of David Hager and In Re the Commitment of Howard Carter
Wisconsin Chapter 980 provides for the commitment of sexually violent persons. A sexually violent person is a person who has previously been convicted of a sexually violent offense and is dangerous to others because he or she suffers from a mental disorder that makes it likely that the person will engage in one or more acts of sexual violence. Once committed, a sexually violent person may petition the circuit court for a discharge trial. Under Wis. Stat. § 980.09(2), a sexually violent person is entitled to discharge if the circuit court determines that the person has “sufficiently changed” such that a jury “would likely conclude” that the person is no longer a sexually violent person.
In In re the Commitment of David Hager, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will interpret Wis. Stat. § 980.09(2), as amended by 2013 Act 84, which specifies the procedures that circuit courts apply when determining whether to grant a sexually violent person a discharge trial. Should a circuit court compare the newly proffered evidence in support of discharge with other evidence in the record to determine whether to grant a discharge trial? The State argued that the circuit court may.
In In re the Commitment of Howard Carter, Carter asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to decide whether Wis. Stat. § 980.09(2), as amended by 2013 Act 84, violated his procedural or substantive due process rights by making it more difficult to get a discharge trial. The State argued that Act 84’s amendments to Wis. Stat. § 980.09(2) did not violate Carter’s substantive or procedural due process rights. Carter also argued that because he filed his discharge petition before Act 84’s effective date, the circuit court should have applied the legal standard for reviewing a discharge petition before Act 84 became effective. The State argued that the circuit court could apply Act 84’s newly enacted standards to decide whether Carter was entitled to a discharge trial.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Balistreri filed the briefs in both Hager and Carter. Assistant Attorney General Donald Latorraca argued the cases on November 1, 2017.
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