We all have friends who are idiots. Let's say that our twenty-four year-old friend "Joe" is not only an idiot, but he is crazy too-- specifically, he is grab a cop's gun crazy. He is charged with and convicted of disarming a police officer, contrary to Sec. 941.21, Stats., a Class H felony. Joe is sentenced to six months in jail, which he serves without incident. Under Wisconsin law, when he is finished serving his sentence, Joe is eligible to have his felony conviction expunged. That is, all evidence of the charge and conviction can be wiped from the record. There will be no official evidence that Joe was ever charged with anything, much less that he was convicted and he served jail time.
Now let's say that your crazy ex-girlfriend goes out drinking with her friends, and she shows up at your apartment at midnight, demanding that you let her in. She is stinking drunk. Stupidly, you open the door, and then the arguing starts. She works herself into a foaming-at-the-mouth rage, and so you call the police. When the police arrive she lies to the police. She tells them that you slapped her. Once this happens, it is guaranteed that you will be arrested and charged with battery. Naturally, you plead not guilty, you hire a good lawyer, and the case proceeds to trial. In a five minute verdict, the jury finds you not guilty. The judge enters a judgment of acquittal.
In the weeks that follow, though, your landlord gives you a notice terminating your lease. Then your job gives you a pink slip. No girl will date you more than once. So you start looking for a new job, a new girlfriend, and a new apartment but, everywhere you go, doors are slammed in your face without explanation. Meanwhile, your idiot friend, Joe, has a beautiful apartment and a great job. His girlfriend is gorgeous.
What happened here?
The short answer is: CCAP (the Wisconsin Circuit Court Automation Project). This is the web-based database of circuit court cases in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, everyone's idiot friend has heard about it, and they consult it every time they are hiring, signing a lease, or meeting a new person. Since they are idiots, though, they have no idea what they are looking at. They see a name. They read the charge. And that is as far as they go.
Because Joe's felony conviction was expunged, when these uninformed people consult CCAP they find nothing about Joe. On the other hand, when they consult CCAP about you, they see that you were charged with battery. Their research goes no further. They never learn that you were found not guilty.
It is this sort of anomaly in the law that drives people to distraction. The guy who was convicted of a felony appears to be clean as a whistle. On the other hand, the girl who was falsely accused, and then acquitted, still has her name on CCAP. This is because, as long as the CCAP entry is accurate (that is, it correctly notes that the judgment was of acquittal), there is no mechanism in the law to remove the entry from the database. The expungement statute applies only to convictions. Joe gets to keep his beautiful apartment, while you continue to live in a cold-water flat with four other unemployed room-mates.
Is there nothing that can be done? Fortunately, until the law is changed, there are steps that can be taken to minimimze the impact of a false criminal charge.
Go on offense. The fact of the matter is that, in an ideal world, a CCAP entry that accurately reflects that you were charged with battery, and then acquitted, should not be held against you in any way. We do not live in a perfect world, though. We live in a world where guys like "Joe" are in charge of hiring. When they look at CCAP, they have no idea what they are looking at.
So this means that if you ever suspect that you have been denied employment, or have been refused a lease, on account of the CCAP entry, you go on offense. The law does provide some protection. Sec. 111.321, Stats., provides that, "[N]o employer, labor organization, employment agency, licensing agency, or other person may engage in any act of employment discrimination as specified in s. 111.322 against any individual on the basis of . . . arrest record . . .." There is a similar law concerning housing. Therefore, if you suspect that you have been discriminated against on the basis of your CCAP entry, consult a good lawyer. A strongly-worded letter from an attorney threatening employment discrimination litigation is many times enough to totally solve the problem.
Get your fingerprints back. Where you have been arrested and acquitted of a crime it is possible to have your fingerprints removed from the police agency that arrested you. Sec. 165.8(1), Stats., provides that, “Any person arrested or taken into custody and subsequently released without charge, or cleared of the offense through court proceedings, shall have any fingerprint record taken in connection therewith returned upon request.” In order to accomplish this, all this is required is that the person submit a completed form requesting return of the prints.
Be prepared with an explanation for the charges. Although it is probably not necessary to disclose the fact that you were charged and acquitted on an employment application, it is certainly a good idea to be prepared with an explanation of what happened. Even though it is not on the application, the issue may come up during an interview. How you react to the question is critical. If you react sheepishly or are reluctant to talk about it, or with an ambiguous description of what happened (that was an unfortunate situation . . .); you will not be hired. Write out your answer ahead of time, and practice it. Be affirmative. In this narrative be sure to use phrases like, "I was falsely accused . . .. the jury returned a not guilty verdict in five minutes . . . I have considered suing for defamation." Using this type of language conveys the injustice of the situation, and it indicates that you will not tolerate any further consequences from the situation.
In sum, if you are falsely accused of a crime, do not panic. Go on offense. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you.
__________________________________ Schiro & Zarzynski Personal Injury Attorneys Milwaukee, WI 53203 414.224.0825
"The bully lawyer" _____________________________
Milwaukee criminal defense attorney Jeffrey W. Jensen, of the Law Offices of Jeffrey W. Jensen, a Milwaukee law firm with offices located at 735 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Twelfth Floor, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has represented persons throughout the State of Wisconsin. If you will face felony charges in either state court or in federal court you should call 414.671.9484. Attorney Jensen regularly appears in Milwaukee County (Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer), Waukesha County (Waukesha criminal defense lawyer, Brookfield criminal defense lawyer), Washington County (West Bend and Germantown criminal defense lawyer), Racine County (Racine criminal defense lawyer), Kenosha County (Kenosha criminal defense lawyer), Brown County (Green Bay criminal defense lawyer), Fond du Lac County (Fond du Lac criminal defense lawyer), and Winnebago County (Oshkosh criminal defense lawyer)
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