We hear about people appealing their cases all the time, but one thing that doesn’t get considered sometimes is that the state can also make appeals.

That just recently happened in the state of Wisconsin. Let’s give a quick review of the issue.

In 2017, William Forrett was pulled over by a police officer and arrested for OWI. This was his sixth OWI offense, but two decades previous he had refused to submit to a no-warrant blood draw after being pulled over for suspicion of operating while intoxicated. He was therefore sentenced – for his sixth offense – as if it was his seventh OWI offence. He got a total sentence of 11 years of prison, which is over the maximum for a 6th offense OWI.

In the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a related case where they stated that refusing a warrantless blood draw can’t be used as the basis for additional criminal charges or penalties.

And naturally, the State of Wisconsin didn’t like that one bit.

Wisconsin’s arguments are somewhat nuanced and complex, but basically they boil down to this:

“The Supreme Court decided that it was illegal to use the defendant’s refusal to increase the penalty in the initial case. We’re not doing that. We’re using the defendant’s previous refusal to escalate the penalty in a completely new case, so the ruling doesn’t apply.”

From where I sit, the issue here isn’t when the penalty is imposed – it’s that somebody exercising their Fourth Amendment right to refuse warrantless searches and seizures is being penalized in any way at all.

Wisconsin’s case, if successful, would strike a serious blow at our constitutional rights. The Fourth Amendment is the provision of the Constitution that says police officers can’t just barge into your home and go through your stuff without a warrant – and weakening its protections for anybody is bad for everybody.

I’m hoping that the Wisconsin Supreme Court will see that clearly as well when they hear the state’s appeal.

And as always, if you’re charged with a crime, the best way to avoid being caught up in a situation like this is to have the best representation at your initial trial. Give me a call with all of your criminal defense needs, and I’ll help you get the best possible outcome!

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