Assembly Holds Hearing On Bill To Limit Online Criminal Records Data

Proposal Would Remove Information On Defendants Not Found Guilty From Website

The new proposal is part of an ongoing debate over how much information Wisconsin's criminal records database should provide. Photo: sayuriArt(CC-BY)

State legislators are considering a new effort to remove information from Wisconsin Circuit Court Access, the state’s online criminal records website commonly referred to as CCAP.

If approved, the bill would remove all cases in which a defendant was acquitted or the charges were dropped from CCAP. Bill author, Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said too often employers use such cases to deny jobs to people simply because they were charged with a crime, ignoring the fact that they were not convicted. He said such records follow people for a lifetime.

Said Grothman: “We in our society treat people who were not convicted of crimes like they were innocent, and the idea that we should ever punish people because they might have been guilty is … I mean, man. Man! No, no, no!”

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Opponents of the bill include the State Courts Director John Voelker, who said changing the online system would be costly. He also said it may provide a false sense of security for people who were never convicted, because the record is still accessible in paper form in a courthouse. He’s backing an alternative bill that would make it easier for people to ask a judge to have the record completely expunged.

“Someone can still go and look at the paper and can still use that information even if it’s for the wrong intentions,” said Voelker. “If we have expungement, we are getting rid of that piece of paper and providing complete relief for people for people that may be affected by having their information available on not guilty or dismissed cases.”

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also opposes the current bill because they say it would reduce CCAP to a list of people found guilty and give the public the false impression that all state prosecutors have a 100 percent conviction rate.

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