State lawmakers are circulating a bill that would limit some of the information that shows up on a popular online database of Wisconsin court records.
Each year, millions of people view the online court record site known as CCAP, which contains a wide range of basic information on criminal and civil court cases. State Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) is concerned that some offenses should not be on there though, especially if a case was dismissed or a person was found not guilty of any charges. He’s co-sponsoring legislation that would require records to be removed from the system if a person is acquitted, charges are dropped, or the case is overturned on appeal.
The West Bend Republican argues the current set-up of publishing all court records is “a worse punishment than serving a jail sentence itself, because once you’re on CCAP, you’re there forever, which will forever cloud your ability to get a job or perhaps even rent an apartment.”
AUDIO: Sen. Glenn Grothman (:08)
State court officials say that for the one-year period between September 2012 and August 2013, CCAP had about 30.2 million visits, including 7.6 million unique visitors. Total page views during that time amounted to 494.2 million.
The database is intended to provide an overview of court cases and does not provide many details beyond what charges were filed. While it’s not supposed to be used to discriminate against individuals, concerns have been raised for years that just having the information out there can negatively impact someone in a variety of ways. Bills similar to the current proposal from Grothman and state Rep. Mary Czaja (R-Irma) have been introduced in past sessions, but have fallen short of the support needed to make any changes.
Advocates for open government have opposed attempts to restrict the records listed on CCAP, arguing that even dismissed charges are still public records and should be made available. The records are still available in local courthouses, but Grothman contends the spread of technology has made it easier than ever for people to access the information. He says it’s become a common thing for people to just see what their next door neighbor is up to, or check out their daughter’s boyfriend.