Dismissed Criminal, Eviction, Other Cases No Longer Displayed On Wisconsin Court Website After Two Y
Dismissed Criminal, Eviction, Other Cases No Longer Displayed On Wisconsin Court Website After Two Years
One of the first major actions that Randy Koschnick will take as newly appointed Director of State Courts is implementing recommendations on the length of time certain case information is publicly available online, even if a case is dismissed.
Koschnick oversees the court system’s Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP), which includes administrative authority over basic case information displayed online through the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) website.
Under the plan, misdemeanor and felony cases will display on the WCCA website for two years if the case was dismissed or the defendant was acquitted. That is, after two years from the date of disposition, the WCCA record will be removed.
The two-year display period will also apply to small claims cases that were dismissed, such as eviction actions, and injunction petitions relating to domestic abuse, child abuse, individuals at risk, and harassment that were dismissed or denied.
Changes are expected to be fully implemented by the end of March, and will apply retroactively. In other words, someone with a misdemeanor or felony charge that was dismissed more than two years ago will see the record removed from the WCCA.
Currently, the display periods for these cases is much longer because they are tied to the retention periods for court records set forth under Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 72, which governs the length of time court clerks must keep a court records on file.
For instance, misdemeanor court records, which include a history and index of proceedings commenced as misdemeanors, must be retained for 20 years following entry of final judgment. For most felonies, the retention period is 50 years.
That means the case information stays on WCCA, open for inspection by anyone, for 20-plus years, even if the charges were dismissed or the person was acquitted.
But WCCA display periods are not required, by rule, to be linked to retention periods. The State Courts Director has administrative authority over what is displayed on WCCA. Koschnick said the changes were necessary to address various concerns.
According to the WCCA Oversight Committee’s final report, the committee “expressed its concern that individuals are subject to discriminatory or otherwise adverse treatment if potential employers, landlords, and members of the general public are able to view records of their court cases,” especially in criminal cases.
Shorter display periods for certain cases balance the public’s right to access public court records, the committee noted, “with concerns of potential harm to individuals whose dismissed cases remain on display on WCCA for an extended period of time.”
The committee decided that these case types have the most potential to be misused through discrimination or create hardships and burdens based on stigmatization.
The court record does not go away because the retention periods still applies to a dismissal. Thus, those court records will still be available, just not available on WCCA.
Additionally, a dismissed charge will still appear if attached to other charges in the same case that were not dismissed. Thus, if someone pled guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor charge was dismissed, the misdemeanor charge will still appear.
Koschnick will also seek a change to the court record retention rules, which currently apply based on the crime charged when the case was “commenced.” Koschnick said the retention period should be based on charges at disposition.
“Frequently, cases end up differently than originally filed,” Koschnick said. “So, if it’s filed as a felony but gets reduced to a misdemeanor for disposition, we would treat that as a misdemeanor for purposes of WCCA display and retention. What a charge starts out as doesn’t really matter. The charge at disposition is what matters.”