Court Watch

5-Year Drop in County’s Felony Cases

Serious crime cases down by 9%, but statewide felony cases rose 18% from 2011-2016.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Jul 12th, 2017 12:30 pm
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Milwaukee County Jail and Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County Jail and Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The number of felony court cases opened in Wisconsin soared 18 percent over the five-year period that ended in 2016, according to state statistics.

The increase would have been even greater had not a 9 percent drop in Milwaukee County felony cases help offset the statewide jump.

The number of felony cases opened statewide increased by 6,068, from 33,103 in 2011 to 39,171 in 2016.

In Milwaukee County, in contrast, the number of felony cases opened fell by 578, from 6,121 in 2011 to 5,543 in 2016.

The figures count cases, not individual charges, and include cases in which the most serious charge is a felony.

An increase in the number of drug possession charges helped drive the statewide increase, but an even bigger factor was a jump in the number of felony bail jumping cases opened. Statewide, the number rose from 4,027 in 2011 to 7,034 in 2016, an increase of 3,007, or 75 percent.

In Milwaukee County, the number of felony bail jumping case rose 5 percent, from 249 to 262.

Bail jumping accounted for 18 percent of felony cases opened statewide last year, but just about five percent of felonies opened in Milwaukee County.

Felony bail jumping is criticized by defense lawyers as a charge issued by some prosecutors seeking to coerce a plea in the underlying case. Felony bail jumping carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison and the charge can be issued for non-criminal activity, such as missing a drug test or having a drink in violation of an absolute sobriety condition of bail.

The number of felony drug possession cases grew 41 percent statewide from 2011 to 2016, from 4,955 to 6,984. Milwaukee County saw a 42 percent decline in felony drug cases, 1,572 to 905.

Milwaukee County’s largest increase came in an “other felony” category, up 405% from 2011 to 2016, from 125 to 631 cases opened. Felony traffic cases were up 44%, from 252 to 363 cases.

Felony Cases Opened, State of Wisconsin, 2011 to 2016.

Felony Cases Opened, State of Wisconsin, 2011 to 2016.

Felony Cases Opened, Milwaukee County, 2011 to 2016.

Felony Cases Opened, Milwaukee County, 2011 to 2016.

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.

Categories: Court Watch, Crime

One thought on “Court Watch: 5-Year Drop in County’s Felony Cases”

  1. AG says:

    Interesting, felony charges have dropped in Milwaukee during that time period but violent crime rates and auto thefts are up across the board. Makes sense…

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