2012 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
968. Commencement of criminal proceedings.
968.02 Issuance and filing of complaints.


WI Stat § 968.02 (2012 through Act 45) What's This?

968.02 Issuance and filing of complaints.

968.02(1) (1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a complaint charging a person with an offense shall be issued only by a district attorney of the county where the crime is alleged to have been committed. A complaint is issued when it is approved for filing by the district attorney. The approval shall be in the form of a written endorsement on the complaint.

968.02(2) (2) After a complaint has been issued, it shall be filed with a judge and either a warrant or summons shall be issued or the complaint shall be dismissed, pursuant to s. 968.03. Such filing commences the action.

968.02(3) (3) If a district attorney refuses or is unavailable to issue a complaint, a circuit judge may permit the filing of a complaint, if the judge finds there is probable cause to believe that the person to be charged has committed an offense after conducting a hearing. If the district attorney has refused to issue a complaint, he or she shall be informed of the hearing and may attend. The hearing shall be ex parte without the right of cross-examination.

968.02(4) (4) If the alleged violator under s. 948.55 (2) or 948.60 (2) (c) is or was the parent or guardian of a child who is injured or dies as a result of an accidental shooting, the district attorney may consider, among other factors, the impact of the injury or death on the alleged violator when deciding whether to issue a complaint regarding the alleged violation. This subsection does not restrict the factors that a district attorney may consider in deciding whether to issue a complaint regarding any alleged violation.

History: 1977 c. 449; 1991 a. 139; 1999 a. 185.

A judge abused his discretion in barring the public from a hearing under sub. (3). State ex rel. Newspapers v. Circuit Court, 124 Wis. 2d 499, 370 N.W.2d 209 (1985).

A judge's order under sub. (3) is not appealable. Gavcus v. Maroney, 127 Wis. 2d 69, 377 N.W.2d 201 (Ct. App. 1985).

Sub. (3) does not give a trial court authority to order a district attorney to file different or additional charges than those already brought. Unnamed Petitioner v. Walworth Circuit Ct., 157 Wis. 2d 157, 458 N.W.2d 575 (Ct. App. 1990).

Sub. (3) does not confer upon the person who is the subject of a proposed prosecution the right to participate in any way or to obtain reconsideration of the ultimate decision reached. A defendant named in a complaint issued pursuant to sub. (3) has the same opportunity to challenge in circuit court the legal and factual sufficiency of that complaint as a defendant named in a complaint issued pursuant to sub. (1). Kalal v. Dane County, 2004 WI 58, 271 Wis. 2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110, 02-2490.

A refusal to issue a complaint under sub. (3) may be proven directly or circumstantially, by inferences reasonably drawn from words and conduct. The refusal can be open and explicit or indirect and inferred. Inaction alone will ordinarily not support an inference of a refusal to prosecute. Kalal v. Dane County, 2004 WI 58, 271 Wis. 2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110, 02-2490.

Forms similar to the uniform traffic citation that are used as complaints to initiate criminal prosecutions in certain misdemeanor cases are sufficient to confer subject matter jurisdiction on the court but any conviction that results from their use in the manner described in the opinion is null and void; ss. 968.02, 968.04, 971.01, 971.04, 971.05, and 971.08 are discussed. 63 Atty. Gen. 540.

Judicial scrutiny of prosecutorial discretion in decision not to file complaint. Becker. 71 MLR 749 (1988).

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