January 29, 2016
MADISON, WI – A gun law reform bill passed the Wisconsin legislature on 20 January of 2016, with little fanfare. It was approved by both the Milwaukee Police Association and the National Rifle Association. Overall, the bill makes reforms in the way that courts treat the return of firearms when they are taken into custody by police.
The bill creates a rigid legal framework for gun owners to regain possession of their property. It does this by requiring courts to issue orders to police to return guns under rigidly defined conditions. It is an incremental reform, as it provides a clear vehicle for a person to have a firearm returned; but there are significant flaws.
The most obvious flaw is the burden that is placed on the owner of the firearm. The police took the private property. The burden should be on them to return it if it becomes clear that no charges will be filed, or for other reasons that are stated in the legislation. Instead, the burden will lie with the property owner. Time and expense required to retrieve the firearms may well be more than modest firearms are worth. Here is the analysis of the law by the legislative Reference Bureau. I have added spacing to make the analysis easier to read. From AB13, Wisconsin Legislature:
Current law specifies a process and criteria for courts and police officers to use to determine ownership of property that has been seized by a police officer and to decide if, how, and when to return the seized property.Under this bill, if a person claims the right to possess a firearm that has been seized, he or she may apply to the court for its return.If a person makes such a claim, the court must order the firearm returned if one of the following occurs:
- all charges connected with the seizure are dismissed;
- six months have elapsed since the seizure and no charges in connection with it have been filed against the person;
- the final disposition for all charges is reached and the person is not adjudged guilty of a crime in connection with the seizure;
- the person establishes that he or she had no prior knowledge of and gave no consent to the commission of the activity that led to the seizure;
- or the district attorney affirmatively declines to file charges connected with the seizure against the person.If the person applies to the court within eight business days after the applicable event occurs, the court must order that the firearm be returned within ten business days of the event.If the person applies to the court later than eight business days after the applicable event occurs, the court must order that the firearm be returned as soon as practically possible but no later than five business days after the order.
Under the law, police may return firearms without a court order, but they are not required to do so. The law will likely be signed by Governor Walker in the next week or two.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included. Link to Gun Watch