Wisconsin Sex Offenses and Why They are Different
The legal distinction as to what constitutes a sex offense can be sharp or blurred. Presently, a sex offense in Wisconsin refers to an act or behavior that is motivated by the intention to commit, solicit, or aid a deviate sexual act. Wisconsin regards sex offenses as serious crimes, and an offender is subject to criminal prosecution by the Wisconsin judiciary. In addition to fulfilling imposed sanctions, a convicted sex offender shall also have his or her record maintained on a repository available to interested members of the public.
What is a Wisconsin Sex Crime?
According to the Wisconsin Criminal Code, sex crimes encompass a series of crimes where an individual intentionally causes, solicits, or exposes another individual to unwanted or refused sexual practices by force, threat, or enticement. The definition also includes sexual acts performed on another person when they cannot give verbal or lucid consent. The body of statutes that describe sex crimes, applicable punishment, and the enforcement of sanctions in Wisconsin include:
- Chapter 944—Crimes against Sexual Morality;
- Chapter 948—Crimes against Children;
- Chapter 975—Sex Crime Laws; and,
- Chapter 980—Sexually Violent Person Commitments;
Bear in mind that these laws are not in place to police the private sexual activities of consenting adults. Instead, sex crime laws exist to identify and punish any criminal sexual behavior that deviates from acceptable cultural and legal standards.
What are the Different Types of Sex Offenses?
Wisconsin laws define sex offenses and assign penalties depending on the severity of the crime. Some of these include:
- Sexual Assault: Wisconsin laws do not explicitly describe rape. Instead, the law uses the term sexual assault to refer to all forms of contact or intercourse without consent that causes pregnancy or bodily harm and psychological distress to another person. It also refers to any sexual contact or intercourse, without consent, by using or threatening the use of a dangerous weapon. Sexual conduct aided or abetted by one or more other persons without permission and by the use of force, threat, or violence is also regarded as sexual assault (Wis. Stat. § 940.225(1)). Sexual assault may be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the class, degree, or other aggravating factors. Consequently, felony sexual assaults attract ten (10) jail time to sixty (60) years. The court may also order the offender to pay between $25,000 and $100,000 in statutory fines.
- Incest: refers to intentional marriage or non-marital sexual intercourse with an individual of familial ties or related parties prohibited by Wisconsin laws. The offense is a felony and attracts a maximum of 12 years and six months imprisonment, up to $25,000 in fines, or a combination of jail time and fines.
- Obscene Materials or Performance: Wis. Stat. § 944.21 prohibits the unsolicited display or the performance of sexual conduct where another person is present. An obscene material refers to any work of art, photo, video, or voice recording that contains a sexual theme. The first conviction is a misdemeanor subject to appropriate jail time and fines. The law regards subsequent convictions as a felony and stipulates that guilty offenders complete six (6) years in jail, pay up to $10,000 in fines, or a combination of both.
- Bestiality: Wisconsin laws condemn all forms of intentional sexual relations with an animal; the display of bestiality on any medium of communication; forcing another person to engage in bestiality; obtaining an animal with the intent of bestiality, and all other sexual conducts involving an animal. An individual convicted of bestiality is guilty of a felony. The punishment shall depend on the degree of offense and other aggravating factors such as a minor’s involvement. Generally, such an offender is subject to 5—15 years of imprisonment (Wis. Stat. § 944.18).
- Obscenity: Wis. Stat. § 944.20 describes obscenity as the intentional display of genitalia with knowledge of the presence of another party. The statute, however, exempts such displays concerning breastfeeding. Obscenity is a misdemeanor and attracts up to nine (9) months in jail, up to $10,000 in fines, or both penalties.
For more description of the types of sex crimes in Wisconsin, an interested individual may refer to Chapter 944 and Chapter 948 of the Wisconsin Statutes.
Sex Offender Levels of Classification in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections organizes sex offenders indicted or convicted of sex crimes into levels. The classification is based on the nature of the offense and the potential threat posed by the offender. The three levels of sex offenders in Wisconsin are:
- Level 1 Sex Offender: These offenders are mostly guilty of misdemeanor sex offenses and pose minimal threat to other people in society. Thus, only law enforcement receives notifications of the activities of the offender.
- Level 2 Sex Offender: These offenders are next in rank for the threat posed to other members of the society based on the particular facts in the case. Thus, the Department of Corrections only sends notification of such offender’s activities to specific individuals and groups.
- Level 3 Sex Offender: These offenders pose the most significant risk to other individuals in society. Thus, the Department of Corrections (DOC) broadcasts a community-wide notification of the offender’s presence in a location. The DOC typically disseminates this information via mass media and community meetings.
Bear in mind that criminal justice agencies do not assign levels and provide notifications to subject the offender to public shame, as the increasing publicity would suggest. As the offender must have completed his or her sentence, this measure is far from punitive. The principal aim of notifying local law enforcement or residents is solely for public safety. Thus, any humiliation is collateral damage.
How Do I Find A Sex Offender Near Me in Wisconsin?
Generally, Wisconsin laws mandate that all sex offenders register in the Sex Offender Registry for at least fifteen (15) years. Sex offenders who are multiple offenders are liable to lifetime registration on the registry. As mentioned earlier, criminal justice agencies regularly publicize notifications regarding sex offenders in any locale. Nevertheless, interested public members may request information regarding a sex offender by visiting the sheriff’s office in person during business hours or remotely conducting a search on the online repository.
The Wisconsin Sex Offender Registry
Per Wis. Stat. § 301.46, the Department of Corrections maintains a repository containing information on those convicted, incarcerated, or on supervision for a sex offense within the state’s jurisdiction. Bear in mind that the sex offender registry is, however, not a substitute for criminal history on the offender.
Generally, a database query will return the offender’s most recent photograph, personal information, and residential information within the state boundaries. The searcher will also have access to the offender’s aliases, physical description, duration of supervision, and other essential details.
Interested searchers may use a name search to query the sex offender registry, or the searcher may perform a search based on geographic radius. With these in mind:
- Visit the Wisconsin Sex Offender Registry website
- Accept the terms and conditions
- Complete the captcha challenge
- Query the database with the name or residential information of the offender
Meanwhile, the DOC issues an advisory that explicitly warns searchers against using sex offender information for harassment. The DOC shall take legal actions against anyone who misuses the information obtained from the sex offender registry.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused of.
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
What are the Sex Offender Restrictions in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin imposes civil restrictions on the activities of convicted sex offenders based on the nature of the crime. The local offender supervisor is responsible for ensuring that offenders do not violate imposed restrictions. Where an offender does violate a restriction, they shall bear the appropriate criminal liabilities, including jail time and fines. Some of these restrictions include:
- Residency restriction: An offender shall notify his or her supervisor about any change address information within ten (10) days. Furthermore, except a court grants an exemption, no offender shall rent a home within 500 feet of a public or private childcare facility. Likewise, the law prohibits anyone from renting a place to the offender, which may violate the residency restriction.
- Employment restriction: A sex offender may not seek employment with any public or private organization that puts him or her in frequent contact with individuals who match their victims’ profile.
- Submission to a mental health program: The restriction mostly applies to violent sexual predators. However, depending on the offense’s circumstances, the court may order a sex offender to enroll in a mental health program and submit to regular psychological evaluation.
Bear in mind that the Wisconsin judiciary does not impose any of these restrictions on the offender’s socio-economic hardship. However, due to the high rate of recidivism among sex offenders, the sole purpose of a restriction is to limit the offender’s interaction or access to potential victims and ensure public safety.