Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wisconsin’s costly paternalism

Tyler H., a thirteen-year-old Wisconsin kid, was having a really bad day.  First, his brother didn’t like the way Tyler was chewing his food, so he “hit Tyler in the back.”  Then, when the inevitable wrestling match ensued, the boys’ mother got into the act and hit Tyler in “his mouth.”  After getting struck by his mother, Tyler did not react physically; instead, he swore at his mother and smartly “left the house.”  But then Tyler’s mother decided to exacerbate her disastrous parenting by calling the police—that’s right: the police.  And once these government agents were invited into what should have been a family matter, things got even worse for young Tyler.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wisconsin Supreme Court muddies the waters in plea bargaining

In State v. Frey, the defendant agreed to plead to certain charges and the state agreed to dismiss certain charges outright, rather than read them in, at sentencing.  This distinction between dismissing charges outright and dismissing and reading them in has always been a critical one.  In countless cases (including this one, for example) courts routinely recognized the distinction.  Even the official plea form that the defendant is required to fill out and sign warns him that “the judge may consider read-in charges when imposing sentence[.]”  Of course, in light of this warning, the only rational conclusion is that charges dismissed and not read in, i.e., dismissed outright or simply dismissed, cannot be considered by the judge when imposing sentence.  This makes sense for a couple of reasons.