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MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has issued an informational memorandum explaining how 2011 Wisconsin Act 283 (“Act 283”), which takes effect today, relates to the obligations of law enforcement agencies and other public entities under the Wisconsin public records law.
Van Hollen's memorandum explains that Act 283 creates new statutory provisions related to disclosure by public officials, employees, or agencies of personally identifying information of crime victims or witnesses. Act 283 was intended to protect victims and witnesses from inappropriate and unauthorized use of their personal identifiers for purposes unrelated to the proper execution of official public duties, such as the “sexting” of crime victims by former Calumet County District Attorney Kenneth Kratz.
However, Van Hollen's memorandum explains, Act 283 was not intended to preclude law enforcement agencies and other agencies from performing their official duties under the Wisconsin public records law and other applicable laws. The new statutory provisions created by Act 283 do not prohibit law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, or other public agencies from disclosing all personal identifiers of crime victims and witnesses in response to public records requests.
Van Hollen's memorandum reiterates that privacy, confidentiality, and safety concerns related to victims and witnesses have been and should continue to be carefully considered by records custodians responding to public records requests. These important concerns generally are addressed in case-by-case application of the public records balancing test.
Finally, Van Hollen's memorandum invites persons with questions about the Wisconsin public records law, the public records balancing test, and public records requests for records containing personal identifiers of crime victims or witnesses to review the Department of Justice's Public RecordsOutline which is available to view, print, or download free of charge at the following link:
Act 283 is available at: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/related/acts/283.pdf.
Van Hollen's memorandum is available at the following link: