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Legal Memorandum: Penalty Assessments by WI Municipal Courts

Issue: Under United States and Wisconsin law, what constitutional grounds exist to challenge the penalty assessments imposed under Wis. Stat. 767.05 by municipal courts?

Area of Law: Administrative Law, Administrative Law & Regulation (Federal and State), Litigation & Procedure, Municipal, County and Local Law
Keywords: Penalty assessments; Municipal courts; Constitutional validity
Jurisdiction: Federal, Wisconsin
Cited Cases: 216 Wis. 2d 521; 203 N.W.2d 84; 249 N.W.2d 770; 692 So. 2d 1038; 649 A.2d 1112; 353 N.W.2d 793; 576 N.W.2d 245
Cited Statutes: Wis. Stat. § 757.05(1)(a), § 767.05, § 757.05(2); Wis. Const. art. X, §2
Date: 03/01/2004

Section 757.05(1)(a) provides: 

Whenever a court imposes a fine or forfeiture for a violation of state law or for a violation of a municipal or county ordinance [except for specified violations involving prohibited smoking, certain violations for driving with blood alcohol levels between .08 and .10, and certain nonmoving traffic and seat belt violations] … there shall be imposed in addition a penalty assessment in an amount of 24% of the fine or forfeiture imposed.  If multiple offenses are involved, the penalty assessment shall be based upon the total fine or forfeiture for all offenses.  When a fine or forfeiture is suspended in whole or in part, the penalty assessment shall be reduced in proportion to the suspension.

Wis. Stat. § 757.05(1)(a) (2002). 

Additional subsections of § 767.05 provide for the administration of the penalty assessment, including a requirement that amounts collected be forwarded to the State of Wisconsin and credited to state appropriations for law-enforcement education and other State-sponsored programs.  Under § 757.05(2), 48% of the collected penalty assessments is used for the law-enforcement training fund, which includes items such as training local and state officers, crime-lab supplies and equipment, and law-enforcement standards matters.  The balance of the collected monies is used for a variety of programs such as alcohol- and drug-abuse programs, victim services, correctional-officer training, and youth-diversion programs.  All programs can be broadly characterized as related to law enforcement or crime prevention.  None are related to court operations.

The Wisconsin Constitution requires that […]

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