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Wisconsin Fraud, Criminal and White-Collar Criminal Investigation Blog

Will sentencing guideline ranges for white collar crime be cut?

The 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.

Wisconsin to see increased OWI patrols now through Labor Day

night police.jpgMost of us equate the Labor Day weekend with the end of summer, as kids go back to school, the days continue to get shorter and the temperature starts to drop ever so slightly. Of course, the holiday weekend is still several weeks away, meaning people still have time to bask in the summer and celebrate accordingly.

However, people will need to be mindful during their celebrations -- especially if alcohol is involved -- as law enforcement officials will be out in full force on the roads and highways now through Labor Day looking to make drunk driving arrests.

This enhanced OWI enforcement period, which will involve the participation of nearly 400 agencies across the state, is part of the ongoing "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign. For those unfamiliar with the campaign, it essentially involves the Wisconsin Department of Transportation using federal funds to cover the costs of increased patrols and public service announcements during those times of the year when there are likely to be more impaired drivers on the road (Christmas, Saint Patrick's Day, Super Bowl Sunday, etc.).

Local cyber security firm makes startling discovery

keyboard.jpgConsumers were sent into an uproar this past December when the discount chain Target revealed that its website had been hacked, compromising the debit- and credit-card data from roughly 40 million accounts. While this development resulted in the retail giant implementing a host of cyber security protections, a recently released report from a Wisconsin-based cyber security company reveals that others are not following this example.

According to Hold Security, located here in Milwaukee, a criminal organization most likely based in Eastern Europe has stolen upwards of 1.2 billion user names and passwords from more than 420,000 websites -- both small sites and "household names" -- using an automated program designed to search for and exploit cyber vulnerabilities.

While the Milwaukee firm declined to disclose the identity of the affected websites due to concerns that such revelations could result in greater exploitation of these cyber vulnerabilities, it did indicate that this issue highlights how many website operators are failing to put a premium on more stringent security measures.

Poll finds public dissatisfied with inmate rehabilitation methods

doc.jpgThe Wisconsin Department of Corrections has faced significant criticism over the last several years from multiple advocacy groups regarding what they believe are draconian practices in the state's prison system, including a tendency to focus more on incarceration than rehabilitation.

This makes sense when you consider statistics reveal that the state prison population sat at over 22,000 people as of mid-July and that the costs of running the DOC's various prisons now approach roughly a billion per year.

While advocacy groups like WISDOM, a faith-based non-profit comprised of congregations across the state, have specifically called on the DOC to release aging inmates, eliminate solitary confinement, address overcrowding and, of course, grant more prisoners parole, forward momentum has been slow.

That may change, however, following the recent publication of a poll by researchers at Marquette University Law School gauging public opinion on Wisconsin's inmate rehabilitation efforts.

Holder calls on federal agents to start carrying naloxone kits

naloxone kits.jpgLast spring, Governor Scott Walker signed seven bills, known collectively as the Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education (H.O.P.E.) package, into law. For those unfamiliar with the H.O.P.E. laws, they are intended to help combat consistently rising levels of heroin and opiates (i.e., prescription painkillers) abuse using treatment and prevention, as opposed to increased drug arrests and more severe punishment.

One of the more interesting of the H.O.P.E. laws mandates that all EMTs must carry naloxone, a drug that can be used to counteract the effects of opiate overdoses, and gives other first responders the option of carrying it.

Indeed, Wisconsin is now one of 17 states -- along with the District of Columbia -- that has enacted laws providing law enforcement officials with ready access to so-called naloxone kits, which consist of two pre-measured syringes containing naloxone and two atomizers, which convert the drug into a nasal spray.

WI high court makes reaches surprising decisions in cellphone cases

smartphone.jpgOver the last few posts, we've explored several recent decisions handed down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In keeping with this theme, today's post will discuss the decisions reached in a pair of cases examining the ability of law enforcement officials to track people's whereabouts using their cellphones, a topic that has understandably generated significant debate over the last year thanks to revelations concerning the National Security Agency.

While most people might not realize it, their cellphones can serve as a makeshift tracker enabling both cellphone providers and law enforcement officials to monitor their whereabouts in real-time.

In the two cases before the state Supreme Court, the issue explored was whether it violates a person's constitutional rights against unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment when law enforcement accesses this otherwise private location tracking data without securing a warrant.

State Supreme Court examines window knocks and Fourth Amendment

TRAFFIC-POLICE-in-car-mirror.jpgIn an opinion published last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court examined the legally significant issue as to whether a law enforcement official knocking on a person's car window can violate their constitutional right against unreasonable seizures under the Fourth Amendment.

According to the facts of the case, a man was out driving in Cassville at around 1 a.m. on Christmas Day 2011, when he pulled over in a public boat landing. Shortly thereafter, a deputy with the Grant County Sheriff's Department noticed the car and decided to investigate further given the time and the holiday season.

The deputy proceeded to knock on the man's car window, motioning for him to roll it down. The man complied and the deputy immediately noticed that the man bore certain signs of intoxication, including slurred speech and an odor of alcohol. The man subsequently failed the field sobriety test and his blood alcohol content was measured to be over twice the legal limit.

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