Wisconsin Senate Unanimously Approves Alicia's Law
The Wisconsin Legislature has recently proved itself committed to increased policing of Internet crimes against children. On February 16, the Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 546, which gives the attorney general the power to issue subpoenas to get the names and addresses of computer users accessing child pornography from Internet service providers without first going through a judge. It additionally imposes a fine on individuals convicted of misdemeanors and felonies, and it directs the funds towards investigating Internet crimes.
In early January, two legislative committees had hearings on Senate Bill 546, also called “Alicia’s Law”. The law is named for Alicia Kozakiewicz, who was kidnapped and tortured in 2002 for several days before authorities located her in Virginia. Alicia has since become an advocate. She shared her harrowing story with the committees in hopes of urging members to vote for Senate Bill 546.
At the hearings, Alicia said that her story was difficult to share, explaining that “I was that terrified young girl who was lured from my home, taken across state lines, chained by the neck, forced into a disgusting basement dungeon, and tortured.”
Her captor uploaded videos of the sexual abuse to the Internet. There, someone found it and contacted law enforcement. The police used the captor’s IP address to find Alicia.
Legislation similar to “Alicia’s Law” has been passed in 11 other states. And national advocate Camille Cooper indicated that three additional legislatures are contemplating versions of similar legislation this year.
Wisconsin officers tasked with enforcing Internet crimes against children say they do not have adequate resources to manage these cases. Town of Summit police officer Jason Falkner testified that his office needs “more resources, hardware and time to train to be able to keep up.”
Some members of the Senate Judiciary committee expressed concerns over the bill’s funding mechanism. The legislation tacks a $20 fee on misdemeanor convictions and a $40 charge on felonies. Senator Lena Taylor, a Milwaukee Democrat, expressed doubt that the state would gather very much money this way because many criminals are unable to pay such fees. Taylor expressed overall support for the bill, but she thought it should be funded by the state budget instead.
Democrat Senators Fred Risser and Fred Kessler, both of Madison, similarly indicated that they weren’t sure how to vote, given the funding issue. Risser asked the legislature to furnish a list of all fees that the state tacks on to criminal fines.
The bill’s advocates stated that Virginia similarly added a $15 fee to all convictions. Through this, it has amassed $3.4 million per year for investigating Internet crimes against children.
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel testified for the proponents of the legislation, stating that it would ensure that law enforcement gets the additional resources they need to adequately investigate such crimes.
The bill also grants the state attorney general’s office administrative subpoena power to help agents track down online predators. The fact that the bill doesn’t require judicial oversight of subpoenas is unsettling for public defenders and those concerned with prosecutorial misconduct. However, the bill’s unanimous senate approval demonstrates that Wisconsin is taking more seriously its policing of Internet crimes against children.
If you have been charged with an Internet sex crime in Milwaukee, you should discuss your rights with a skillful criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. To speak with a seasoned Wisconsin criminal attorney, contact the law offices of Reddin & Singer, LLP through our website or give us a call today at (414) 271-6400.