Wisconsin GOP Proposes $10,000 Minimum Bail for Some Defendants With Criminal Record

Republican state lawmakers in Wisconsin want the minimum bail to be raised to $10,000 for defendants with a felony or violent misdemeanor on their criminal record. The proposal for a tougher bail policy comes in the wake of the Waukesha Christmas parade crash allegedly caused by a man who was released two days before on $1,000 bail in a domestic violence case.

Suspect Darrel Brooks Jr. was arrested weeks before he allegedly rove his SUV through the parade crowd on November 21 last year, according to prosecutors. He had allegedly run over the mother of his child, but Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm's office requested he post a $1,000 cash bail for his release.

He posted the bail two days before the parade, where six people were killed and more than 60 injured. Chisholm has maintained that the low bail request was just an oversight, but Republicans have accused him of facilitating the deadly attack and are now pushing bills that seek to prevent a similar lapse from happening again.

In addition to raising the minimum bail for certain defendants, the GOP lawmakers' bills would prevent judges from setting an unsecured bond or allowing someone to be released without bail when that person has been convicted of bail jumping in the past, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The Wisconsin Department of Justice would also have to draft a "bond transparency report" on crime and bond conditions.

Waukesha Memorial
Wisconsin lawmakers' proposal for a tougher bail policy comes in the wake of the Waukesha Christmas parade crash that was allegedly caused by a man who was released two days before on $1,000 bail in a domestic violence case. Above, memorials are seen along Main Street in downtown Waukesha on November 22, 2021, after the Christmas parade crash in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Jim Vondruska/Getty Images

There have been bipartisan calls for bail reform following the Waukesha Christmas parade deaths and details about the earlier bail amount set for Brooks.

Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats, announced their support for stricter bail policies last month.

"I think that's worth talking about," Evers told the Associated Press in a December interview. "We just want to make sure that we're not violating various rights and responsibilities that everybody has. But I'm open to making changes. And so let's have the conversation start."

The bills would have to be approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Evers before becoming law.

In December, Republicans also proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow judges setting monetary bail to consider the seriousness of the offense charged, as well as a defendant's criminal history, flight risk and public safety risk.

A constitutional amendment has to pass the Legislature over two sessions and be approved by voters before taking effect. The governor has no role.

Under the state Constitution, judges can't impose cash bail to prevent future crimes, only to ensure defendants appear in court. Judges may, however, add conditions to a person's bail that seek to address public safety concerns.

"This revolving door for criminals must end," State Senator Julian Bradley, a Franklin Republican, said in a statement announcing the package of bills. "We must bring accountability and transparency to the court system to ensure serial criminals don't continually have the opportunities to put our communities and families in harm's way."

A group of Milwaukee taxpayers filed a complaint against Chisholm with Evers in early December, triggering a process that could end with Evers removing Chisholm from office. The governor said his office was reviewing the complaint, but he and Kaul have said voters should choose whether to remove Chisholm from office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Evers Supports Bail Minimum Hike
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has said that he'll support stricter bail policies after the deadly Waukesha Christmas parade crash. Above, Evers awaits to address the virtual Democratic National Convention, at the Wisconsin Center on August 19, 2020, in Milwaukee. Melina Mara/Pool/Getty Images