Wisconsin Supreme Court Limits Legal Challenges By Sex Offenders

Only Recent Offenders Can Dispute Expert Testimony

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices ruled 5-2 against some sex offenders seeking to challenge their civil commitments. Photo: Rough Tough, Real Stuff (CC-BY-NC-ND

The state Supreme Court ruled this week that only sex offenders who were civilly committed after February 2011 can use a new law to challenge expert testimony about their risk of re-offense.

Sex offenders Ronald Knipfer and Michael Alger argued they should be able to use the new law to petition for discharge from civil commitment even though they were committed as sexual predators before the law took effect. But, in a 5-2 decision, the court ruled that the law wasn’t retroactive.

Knipfer and Alger were represented by attorney Joe Ehmann of the state Public Defender’s Office. Ehmann contended the ruling sets up a double standard for men committed before and after the new law was passed.

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“For the next 30 or 40 years, until the population ages out, we’re going to have these two systems of conducting these hearings,” Ehmann said.

However, the new standard could still mean an increase in the number of offenders challenging the expert testimony used to predict their risk to re-offend following their release.