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Internet crimes: Wisconsin legislators consider changing the law

Wisconsin law may change with regard to how attempted child enticement is prosecuted. Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen supports a bill that is currently being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. If the bill is passed, state law would treat attempted child enticement the same as actually carrying out the crime.

According to state and local authorities, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force arrested 126 people in 2010 for allegedly using the internet to contact possible victims. In many of those cases, individuals accused of internet crimes had purportedly communicated with police agents who were posing as children, so the crime of soliciting a minor was not technically committed.

However, the attorney general regards that fact as a loophole in the law. Current Wisconsin law allows individuals who have been charged with an attempted crime to face only half the maximum legal penalties of actually soliciting a minor. The attorney general argued that "essentially the attempt is the completion of the crime." Van Hollen compared attempted child enticement charges to drug charges that result from a drug sting in which dealing with an undercover officer is the same as trying to buy drugs from a dealer.

The proposed bill would also change the way child pornography that has been seized in a criminal investigation is used in court. Under current Wisconsin law, no restrictions exist on providing defense attorneys with that particular kind of evidence. Van Hollen claims that such evidence could possibly be copied and redistributed. If the new bill is passed, seized child pornography would be regarded as contraband and fall under restrictions like those used for guns and drug evidence.

Wisconsin residents who have been accused of internet crimes will likely want to stay abreast of any changes to the law that might affect individual court proceedings. Not everyone accused of internet crimes is guilty, and a solid step towards preparing a strong defense is to contact a legal professional who can help ensure that the rights of the accused are upheld under current Wisconsin law.

Source: Wisconsin Radio Network, "Punishing online predators," Andrew Beckett, Dec. 21, 2011

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