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Wisconsin Fraud, Criminal and White-Collar Criminal Investigation Blog

Controversy continues to surround first-offense OWI in Wisconsin

On the evening of November 4, all eyes in the state of Wisconsin will be glued to televisions and the Internet as the results of the 2014 general election come in. On this historic day, voters will be called on to decide not just who will represent them in the state legislature, but who will hold the offices of the governor, secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general.

Interestingly, of all the contested issues to arise in the race for the AG's office, there is actually one on which the two leading candidates agree: first-offense OWI. Here, they both agree that the Dairy State should continue to maintain its position as the only state to not criminalize first-time drunk driving and instead treat it as a traffic offense.

Not surprisingly, these respective positions have upset many vehicle safety advocacy groups, who argue that more must be done to combat the epidemic of drunk driving in the state and that this can start with criminalizing first-offense OWI.

Why are police using more UW students as confidential informants?

UW System.jpgBack in February, our blog discussed how Rehabs.com, a website designed to "provide information for those suffering with substance abuse and behavioral addictions," released a study ranking colleges throughout the nation in terms of their on-campus drug arrests.

Much to the surprise of people throughout the state, several of the University of Wisconsin's 13 four-year campuses came in relatively high on the list, including UW-Eau Claire and UW-Whitewater, which ranked second and eleventh respectively.

Interestingly, sources are now indicating that law enforcement officials located in these and other college towns across the Dairy State are now utilizing a new weapon in their efforts to crack down on campus drug crimes: student informants.

What is a RICO violation?

voter fraud handcuffs.jpgCommonly referred to as RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was originally enacted by Congress in 1978. At the time, the point behind the act was to give prosecutors a better way to try to convict those involved in organized crime rings. Prior to this, it was often difficult to prosecute those overseeing these large groups of individuals and businesses. Meanwhile, a lack of a case meant illegal products were still being made readily available to the general public. 

However, since its inception, RICO has become much more far-reaching than just targeting mob bosses and those involved with drugs and weapons trafficking. Now, it is not unheard of for someone not tied to organized crime to be facing RICO violations. Some common examples where RICO is used today include cases involving accusations of Medicare overbilling and money laundering. Basically, someone does not need to be the mastermind of a criminal enterprise to end up facing RICO violations. 

How family dinners can help with both cyberbullying and juvenile crime

laptop2.jpgThanks to the Internet, smartphones, unlimited wireless access and social media platforms, our ability to communicate with one another has undergone a significant transformation over the last decade. In fact, we can now connect with others and share our thoughts instantaneously in just a few swipes of the finger.

It's important to understand, however, that these enhanced communication channels are sometimes used in a decidedly negative manner. For instance, cyberbullying -- a phenomenon in which people harass or intimidate others using the Internet, texts or social media -- has exploded among kids, sometimes resulting in real emotional harm and other associated problems for victims.

Answers needed as Milwaukee PD moves closer to body cameras

Milwaukee_Police_Department.jpgIn light of recent events on both the local and national stage, more and more people here in Milwaukee are now calling on the police department to require all of its officers to be equipped with body cameras to record their interactions with the public. Indeed, an online petition calling for the Milwaukee PD to secure the technology currently boosts well over 2,000 signatures.

For its part, the Milwaukee PD appears to be moving in this direction. After testing five different models of body camera last year, the department is now looking to secure 50 cameras to use in a pilot program to be launched sometime in 2015.

Many people, however, are viewing these efforts are falling well short, arguing that they will serve to do nothing more than delay the inevitable and delay the public the necessary protection from potential misconduct.

According to criminal justice experts and civil liberties advocacy groups, while this public frustration is certainly understandable, people must nevertheless remember that the practical considerations attending such a move must be carefully considered in order to ensure its success.

How the government can still conduct warrantless phone searches

smartphone2.jpgEarlier this summer, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a historic decision in Riley v. California, a case examining the intersection of digital privacy rights and Fourth Amendment protections.

Here, the court held that law enforcement officials must secure a warrant before undertaking any sort of search of a cellphone owned by a person placed under arrest.

While the decision reached in Riley was rightfully hailed as a major victory for privacy rights, legal experts are now indicating that it may have been only the tip of the iceberg.

In particular, these experts have already identified what could prove to be the next legal battleground over warrantless cellphone searches by law enforcement officials: the U.S. border.

Will sentencing guideline ranges for white collar crime be cut?

Gavel.jpgThe last time that the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the panel responsible for setting the federal sentencing guidelines, addressed the issue of white collar crime was over a decade ago. Here, the commission didn't actively work to reduce the penalties called for by the current guidelines, but rather to strengthen them, such that those convicted of everything from embezzlement and insider trading to fraud and money laundering faced potentially stiffer sentences.

In fact, some of the penalties called for by the revised federal sentencing guidelines were so stringent that many federal judges have chosen not abide by them over the years.

As you might imagine, this trend -- which is permissible given that the sentencing guidelines are advisory in nature -- has resulted in inconsistent sentences being handed down, which is exactly what the commission wants to avoid.

Report provides WI communities with guidance on heroin epidemic

heroin.jpgOfficials have gone to great lengths over the last year to combat the problem of opiate and heroin abuse here in Wisconsin, which has seen the number of heroin-related overdoses double from 2008 to 2011, and reach as high as 227 fatalities in 2013.

One key step in addressing this major health and public safety issue was Governor Scott Walker signing a seven-bill package known as the Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education -- or HOPE. -- into law during the spring.

For those unfamiliar with HOPE, it takes the altogether unique approach of putting treatment and prevention of drug abuse ahead of drug arrests and enhanced punishment.

As effective as HOPE has been so far, a recently released report by a special committee for the Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse recommends that it should perhaps be expanded upon in order to help resolve the still growing problem of heroin abuse in the Dairy State.

Underage OWI remains a very real problem in Wisconsin

police lights.jpgIn a short time, children across Wisconsin will reluctantly head back to school for the start of another year. This may undoubtedly come as something of a relief for many parents as they no longer have to worry about their children possibly getting into trouble during the long days and nights of summertime freedom.

While it may be easy to dismiss these parental as overblown, the unfortunate reality is that many children -- particularly teens -- often engage in dangerous or even criminal behavior when left to their own devices.

To illustrate, consider a recent story right here in Wisconsin concerning a carload of teenagers and a rather shocking arrest for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Wisconsin's drug courts looking to combat racial disparity

Gavel.jpgDuring the late 1980s, the criminal justice system in the state of Wisconsin introduced a new mechanism to combat high recidivism rates and prison overcrowding. The mechanism in question was drug courts, which have increased from just five in 2004 to 29 nearly a decade later.

In general, drug courts enable people who have been arrested for certain drug crimes and meet established criteria to reduce or avoid a criminal conviction altogether in exchange for completing a treatment regimen and other programs. The underlying theory behind drug courts is that addressing the problem of addiction, which is the underlying thread in a significant amount of criminal behavior, will serve to lower recidivism and reduce prison costs.

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