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If you are one of the more than 66,000 individuals being supervised by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, you are all too familiar with what it means to have “conditional liberty” and to know that one misstep could mean weeks, months or years of your life spent in a jail or prison. The general rules imposed on those being supervised by the Department are expansive and prohibit a variety of conduct many of us take for granted.

Supervisees must make their homes, property, computers and cellular phones available for search at any time at an agent’s request. They must seek permission to travel, move, take a job, quit a job, borrow money from a friend, take out a loan, or buy a car. In my ten years of experience as a criminal defense attorney, I have represented individuals subject to specialized rules including prohibitions on entering a bar, possessing cash in amounts totaling more than $100, living with a romantic partner, and accessing the internet. The extent to which the Department can interfere in your public and private life may surprise you, but it may be even more surprising how the Department deals with you when you are accused of violating a rule of supervision. 

If the Department believes there is reason to believe you violated the terms of your supervision, you will be placed in jail. From there, the Department may seek to revoke your supervision, which means that it is pursuing your removal from the community and placement into the jail or prison. The process is an administrative one that does not occur in a courtroom, and while you are entitled to an evidentiary hearing, you will not have a trial before a jury, a circuit court judge will not hear your case and the Department will not have to prove that you violated your supervision rules beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Once you arrive at your hearing, which is not public and occurs within the confines of a jail or prison, you will find that an administrative law judge will be presiding over your case and your supervision agent “prosecuting” the Department’s request for revocation. The rules of evidence also do not apply, and the Department is not required to have witnesses testify about the allegations against you. Under Wis. Admin. Code § HA 2.05(6)(d), hearsay is admissible and for that reason, you can be revoked and sent to jail or prison based on a letter or police summary of the allegations someone else has made against you. The hearing will be short, likely no more than an hour, at which time you must present your case and the reasons why you should not be revoked. 

While the rules and procedures controlling a revocation hearing may not be in your favor, you have the right to be represented by an attorney, a right you should absolutely afford. An attorney can and should research treatment options or community-based programs available as alternatives to incarceration. An attorney can call witnesses on your behalf at the hearing, can challenge the allegations against you and even if you violated the rules of supervision, can argue that revocation is not necessary.

If there ever comes a point where you find yourself subject to revocation by the Department, please seek the assistance of counsel before you take any action. An attorney may be the only thing standing between you and a lengthy period of incarceration.

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Associate attorney Nicole M. Masnica

Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP

330 East Kilbourn Avenue, Suite 1170
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
T. 414-271-1440 F. 414-271-7680