Nov 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Wisc. lawmakers push stricter bail laws after Waukesha Christmas parade

Memorial in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Photo: Jim Vondruska/Getty Images

The Christmas parade tragedy in Waukesha, Wisconsin that left 6 dead and more than 60 people injured has prompted state Republican lawmakers to introduce new legislation that would change how bail is set.

Why it matters: Darrell Brooks, the alleged driver of an SUV that plowed into a crowd, had an extensive criminal record. Prior to the accident, Brooks was released from jail after posting a $1,000 bail.

  • On Monday, Milwaukee County district attorney, John Chisholm, admitted that this bail was "inappropriately low," the Washington Post reported.

The big picture: New legislation introduced by state Rep. Cindi Duchow (R) seeks to," reform the legal procedure for how judges apply bail to individuals with criminal histories." State Sen. Van Wanggaard will author the joint resolution in the State Senate.

  • The new law would ask commissars and judges to consider the "dangerousness or violence of a defendant" when setting bail.
  • Currently judges can only set bail high enough to ensure a person appears in court, and do take into account a person's "public safety risk" when setting bail, per Fox 6.
  • Brooks' previous low bail drew the ire of other lawmakers, including State Rep. Scott Allen (R), who said in a statement Monday that court commissioners and judges "routinely fail" to set appropriate bails.

What they're saying: "Wisconsin continues to see examples of people with extensive criminal histories committing crimes while out on bail," Duchow said in a statement.

  • "Allowing judges to consider the safety of the community, seriousness of offense, and previous record of the offender provides another tool to protect both victims and the community," she added.
  • "If somebody is perceived as potentially violent, as I think this individual would qualify for that judgment, then that bail should be high," Allen told Fox 6.

The bottom line: On Tuesday, Court Commissioner Kevin Costello agreed to set a $5 million cash bail for Brooks, the Post reported.

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