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Federal lawsuit seeks to halt Wisconsin’s lifetime GPS monitoring

| Apr 5, 2019 | Criminal Appeals

Last September, the then-attorney general announced that people with two or more convictions for sex offenses would be required to wear GPS monitors for life. He ordered 180 people to get fitted for GPS bracelets within 5 days.

Those required to enter the lifetime monitoring program are also required to pay for it, at a cost of up to $240 per month. Removing the monitor is a felony.

The offenders were also told that they had no legal right to challenge the monitoring requirement for 20 years — and then only if they hadn’t committed even a misdemeanor.

There are several legal and practical problems with this. For one, many of these people were never ordered into monitoring by a court. Instead, the punishment was ordered by the prosecutor long after their conviction. Many have fully completed their sentences, including probation or parole, and are no longer under any court orders.

There are also problems with who was ordered into the monitoring program and how that decision was made. Some affected people don’t seem to meet the program’s legal criteria at all. Others had been adjudicated low risk for reoffending. No one was given due process before the lifetime monitoring requirement was imposed.

Offenders who aren’t under supervision or who committed only one crime sue for relief from monitoring

Eight people who were ordered into lifetime monitoring have filed a federal class action in the hope of representing everyone who was affected. They claim that:

  • Lifetime GPS monitoring constitutes an unreasonable search under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments
  • The Department of Corrections violated their due process rights by adding punishments that were never ordered by a judge, by providing no due process when imposing the requirement, and by denying any chance to challenge the requirement
  • By law, lifetime GPS monitoring can only be imposed on people with two separate convictions, but the Department of Corrections is imposing it on people with a single conviction
  • Lifetime GPS monitoring is being imposed on people who are no longer under any form of court supervision
  • Lifetime GPS monitoring is being imposed on people already judged to be low-risk by experts in their End of Confinement Review Board reviews

The plaintiffs are asking the federal court to rule that the program violates their constitutional rights and for an injunction to stop it, especially in the case of people who have fully served their sentences.

It can be hard for many people to sympathize for the plight of convicted sex offenders, but this program appears to confer little if any additional safety for the public. Furthermore, we can all recognize the need for due process. Courts, not prosecutors, should order punishments.

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