If asked to guess the most charged crime in the state of Wisconsin, most would assume it’s a common misdemeanor like marijuana possession or theft. They may be surprised to learn the real answer:
The number of bail jumping charges in Wisconsin has surged over the last two decades, even as other common criminal charges dropped. According to an article from the Cap Times, a convergence of various factors can be blamed for the rise. Changes to the law, cultural shifts and other issues may play a role. One criticism is simply that individuals released on bail are set up for failure.
What Is Bail Jumping?
While people who have been in this situation before may understand what constitutes bail jumping, others may not be fully aware of how expansive this charge can be. Missing the court date is not the only action that can lead to a bail jumping charge. A violation of any bond condition could be charged as bail jumping, and conditions vary dramatically from case to case. They may include not consuming alcohol, having no contact with an individual, being home before a curfew and meeting regularly with a court officer.
Because of this, even a minor misstep that might not even be a criminal offense in any other context can result in additional criminal charges for the accused. Got home after curfew? Charged with bail jumping. Missed a meeting with a court officer? Charged with bail jumping.
Penalties Are Serious And Can Pile Up
Bail jumping is a unique charge in Wisconsin because it is so dependent on the original criminal charge. If the original criminal charge that the accused is out on bail for is a misdemeanor, a bail jumping charge would also be a misdemeanor. If it’s a felony, a bail jumping charge would also be a felony. Misdemeanor bail jumping can lead to up to 9 months incarceration, while felony bail jumping can lead to up to 6 years.
Individuals are released on bail and given a long list of conditions to adhere to without being given much support on how to adhere to them. People with drug or alcohol addiction issues are told simply not to do drugs or drink. People without transportation are told to get to meetings that they may not know the schedule for ahead of time. Many feel like they are set up to fail, and it is not unusual for someone to face multiple bail jumping charges, all on top of the original criminal charge. Some fear the threat of additional bail jumping charges is used to pressure accused individuals into accepting plea bargains.
Thankfully, there are some advocates and legislators who are actively seeking to address this issue.