Wisconsin Senate passes bail amendment in wake of Waukesha parade

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison

The state Senate on Tuesday passed a constitutional amendment to make it harder for criminal defendants to get out of jail on bail.

The measure could be put before voters for final approval as soon as 2023. 

Constitutional amendments must pass two consecutive legislative sessions and a statewide referendum. The Assembly passed the proposal for the first time last week, followed by the Senate on Tuesday on bipartisan 23-10 vote.

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The amendment would require court officials to consider a defendant’s risk to public safety when setting bail. Currently, bail is set only as a means to ensure the person returns to court.

The change would allow courts to consider the totality of the circumstances in a case, whether the accused has been convicted for a violent crime in the past, the probability he or she will flee and the need to protect the community.

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Republicans have been pushing the amendment since 2017. They've got more momentum now after a man out on bail was charged with driving his SUV through a Christmas parade in Waukesha in November, killing six and injuring dozens more. 

Darrell Brooks, Jr. posted $1,000 bail two day before the parade in a case in which he's accused of running over his ex-girlfriend with the same SUV.

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