By M.D. Kittle |Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker wants automatic DNA tests for people facing felony charges and GPS monitoring for people with restraining orders against them.
Walker’s latest victim initiatives take a swipe at crime. But do they imperil basic civil liberties, too?
Walker on Tuesday announced $14 million in new spending to combat Internet crimes against children, to pump more money into sexual abuse victim programs and to track criminals — the convicted and accused.
“One of the basic functions of government is to ensure public safety and health,” Walker said in a statement. “By enacting these initiatives, Wisconsin will reaffirm its commitment to public safety, protecting our children, and helping crime victims.”
The governor announced his proposals on the same day the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly renewed the two-decades old Violence Against Women Act, vowing equal protections for gay men, lesbians, immigrants and American Indian women.
Walker’s plan includes:
- An additional $1 million in new state funds to add five new full-time employees in the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which works to counter the emerging threat of offenders using online technology to sexually exploit children. These new positions will focus on child sex trafficking and will enable the state Department of Justice to engage in proactive investigations of those who seek children online in an attempt to harm or exploit them, according to the governor’s office.
- $4 million in direct state funding to the Sexual Assault Victims Services grant program to replace previous surcharge revenue. Penalty surcharge revenue, which previously funded SAVS, is declining, putting a strain on these important services, the governor said. SAVS grants are awarded on a competitive basis to local sexual assault service providers, including counties and tribal governments. The funds are used for crisis response to sexual assault, advocacy for victims to include accompanying victims to court and services focused on sexual assault prevention.
- A $3 million grant program that allows courts to require GPS monitoring of certain dangerous individuals receiving first-time restraining orders. This program is similar to Cindy’s Law under which persons who violate restraining orders could be tracked by GPS. Violators of GPS tracking/restraining orders are subject to criminal penalties up to nine months in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.
Perhaps GPS monitoring could have prevented the October shooting deaths of three women, including the wife of the shooter, at a Brookfield spa and salon. Radcliffe F. Haughton, 45, killed his wife, 42-year-old Zina Haughton and two of her fellow spa employees before turning the gun on himself. Just two days before, Zina Haughton had been granted a four-year restraining order against her husband. But the Haughtons had a long history of police activity at their home, where police had in the past responded to domestic violence calls.
“Since 2001, the Brown Deer Police Department has responded to calls for service regarding the Haughtons, ranging from animal complaints to domestic violence related cases,” the Brown Deer Police said in a statement.
Under Walker’s budget proposal, a court must find the person is more likely than not to cause serious bodily harm. Among the factors to be considered are:
- Whether the person has allegedly caused physical injury, intentionally abused pets or damaged property, or committed sexual assault, an act of strangulation, or forcible entry to gain access to the petitioner;
- Whether the person has threatened any individual, including the petitioner, with harm;
- Whether the person has a history of improperly using or threatening to use a firearm or other dangerous weapon.
- $6 million for local law enforcement to take DNA swabs of all felony arrestees, including juveniles and those adults convicted of any misdemeanors — in addition to a small subset of misdemeanor arrests for sexual-related crimes. It is estimated 68,000 samples will be collected annually.
American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin sees such DNA collection as a slippery slope into the abyss of a police state.
“It turns the presumption of innocence on its head, if you thought Americans were innocent until proven guilty,” said Christopher Ahmuty, executive director of ACLU of Wisconsin told Wisconsin Reporter last month.
“Where do you stop? Is it all arrests? The rationale is more is better and the ends justify the means,” Ahmuty told Wisconsin Reporter on Tuesday, standing by his original position.The ACLU has filed suit against a similar law in California and a friend of the court brief for a case at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ahmuty and other civil libertarians fear a government overreach, arguing samples taken from innocent people would remain in the databank for months before they are eventually expunged.
Walker’s proposal demands the DOJ to purge all records and information upon a written request if all charges requiring submission have been dismissed, if found not guilty, one-year has passed since the arrest and the individual has not been charged, or a conviction has since been reversed, set aside, or vacated.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen commended Walker on his justice-related budget proposals.
“These proposals reflect my view that public safety should be the first priority of government and will help to make Wisconsin a safer place to live,” Van Hollen said in a release.
Contact Matt Kittle at [email protected]