Circuit Court Cannot Shorten Period of Probation

Here’s one that doesn’t make much sense to me. The District I Court of Appeals held that the Circuit Court cannot shorten a period of probation even if it makes a finding that the probationer is rehabilitated and has no further need for supervision. Is it just me or is this not very good fiscal policy?

Joe Forward, Legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin writes:

In State v. Dowdy, 2010AP772-CR (Oct. 21, 2010), the state challenged the circuit court’s power to reduce Carl Dowdy’s probation period from 10 years to seven, arguing that Wis. Stat. section 973.09(3)(a) allows the court to extend but not reduce a probation period.

Section 973.09(3)(a) states: “Prior to the expiration of any probation period, the court, for cause and by order, may extend probation for a stated period or modify the terms and conditions thereof.”

Because the statute confers authority to “modify the terms and conditions” of probation, Dowdy argued, the statute confers authority to reduce a probation period. The circuit court agreed, and reduced Dowdy’s probation period. The state appealed.

On appeal, the District I appeals court concluded that in enacting section 973.09(3)(a), “the legislature did not intend to grant circuit courts the authority to ‘modify’ probationary dispositions by reducing them in length.”

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