Section 946.44(1)(b) of the Wisconsin Statutes defines the crime called assisting escape. It indicates:
946.44 Assisting or permitting escape.(1) Whoever does the following is guilty of a Class H felony:…(b) Whoever with intent to aid any prisoner to escape from custody introduces into the institution where the prisoner is detained or transfers to the prisoner anything adapted or useful in making an escape.
The statute is broad – anything that is intended to be adapted to use, or useful, in making an escape satisfies the definition. The only thing required is that the defendant intend to aid the prisoner in an escape. Let’s consider an example: a correctional officer provides an inmate with keys that allow an inmate access to the exterior portion of the facility. Getting through one door isn’t going to result in an escape by itself, but the keys are certainly “useful” in achieving that goal. A completed escape isn’t required here, but simply helping the prisoner get closer to that point.
And importantly, the fact that we’re dealing with a correctional officer makes this crime a Class F felony, exposing the defendant to a potential 12.5 year penalty. This is due to the fact that the correctional officer is a public employee.
Jury instructions are helpful tools used throughout the criminal justice system. Frequently, the first time you’ll encounter them is during a consultation with a proper criminal defense attorney. Jury instructions break down crimes into smaller parts, called elements. Elements are important because they’re what the government must prove at trial, beyond a reasonable doubt. During a plea hearing, the court will also confirm that the elements of a crime exist in order to find a factual basis for the plea.
Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1781 provides us the elements of assisting escape:
Again, you’ll notice an issue we previously discussed: actual escape is not required. The defendant simply needed to give the prisoner something and merely had the intent to help the prisoner escape. It is not required that the prisoner actually escape.
Finally, it’s important for us to discuss the definitions of public employee and public officer. When those individuals commit this crime, they face more than double the potential maximum penalty than anyone else.
Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1782 provides us these definitions:
Hiring the right criminal defense attorney for your charges is important. Criminal allegations such as this one can rely on a lot of circumstantial evidence. Are other prisoners witnesses? Let’s examine their credibility issues. Is the prisoner himself serving as a witness for the state? Obviously there’s also a similar issue there. Picking apart various parts of your case and attacking them could be the way to successfully defend your case. Not all criminal defense attorneys are smart enough, or thorough enough, to present a defense like this to a jury.
At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., you’ll meet some of Wisconsin’s best criminal defense attorneys. We regularly defend individuals facing serious, complex criminal charges throughout the state. Plenty of those cases are high profile and attract media attention. We’ve handled tough cases, and we’d like to speak with you about yours.
Contact us at (414) 270-0202. You can reach out firm 24/7/365, so call now.