Repeater Enhancers in Wisconsin

What does it mean when you look at your criminal complaint and you see “repeater” listed after the charge?  What charges are affected by the repeater enhancer?  And what is a persistent repeater?  This post will examine the standard repeater statute, how DA’s will use the repeater enhancer against you, and how being labeled a repeater will affect your sentence.

Habitual Criminality

The statute covering the repeater enhancer is titled “Habitual Criminality.”  A person is deemed a repeater if either of the following circumstances exist:

  • The person was convicted of a felony during the 5-year period immediately preceding the commission of the crime for which the person is being sentenced.
  • The person was convicted of a 3 separate misdemeanors during the 5-year period immediately preceding the commission of the crime for which the person is being sentenced.

It does not matter if the original sentence was stayed, withheld, or suspended.  And the three separate misdemeanor convictions can be from the same case charged at the same time.  The only requirement is three misdemeanor convictions.  Finally, time which the person spends in actual confinement serving a criminal sentence is excluded in computing the 5-year period.

An example can help illustrate the statute:

  • Actor is convicted of the crime of Burglary on January 1, 2012;
  • Actor spends exactly one year in confinement as a result of that burglary offense;
  • If the actor commits another offense prior to January 1, 2018, he can be charged as a repeater.

In the example, the one year in confinement is excluded when computing the 5-year period.  Therefore, 5 years after January 1, 2012 is January 1, 2018 when the one year in confinement is excluded.

Repeater Penalties

If you are charged as a repeater, you face increased penalties.  The increase in the maximum term of imprisonment depends on the original maximum penalty:

  • A maximum term of imprisonment of one year or less can be increased to not more than 2 years;
  • A maximum term of imprisonment of more than one year but less than 10 years may be increased
    • By not more than 2 years if the prior convictions were for misdemeanors;
    • By not more than 4 years if the prior conviction was for a felony.
  • A maximum term of imprisonment of more than 10 years may be increased
    • By not more than 2 years if the prior convictions were for misdemeanors;
    • By not more than 6 years if the prior conviction was for a felony.

Another example can help illustrate the penalty increase:

  • Actor is labeled a repeater because he was convicted of one felony offense in the 5 years prior to the commission of the present charge;
  • Actor is charged with Felon in Possession of a Firearm, which normally carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years;
  • Because his prior conviction was for a felony, and the maximum he faces for the new charge is between 2-10 years, his maximum period of imprisonment can be increased by up to four years.

Persistent Repeater

The persistent repeater section is akin to a 3-strikes and you’re out law.  This section only applies to individuals presently charged with serious child sex offenses or serious felonies.  A serious felony includes:

A person is considered a persistent repeater if he’s been convicted of a serious felony on two or more separate occasions at any time preceding the serious felony for which he is presently charged, or convicted of a serious child sex offense on at least one prior occasion preceding the serious felony for which he is charged.

If the person is a persistent repeater, the term of imprisonment for the present offense is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or extended supervision.

How DA’s use Repeater Enhancers

Many DA’s will charge offenders as a repeater and then offer to dismiss the enhancer as part of the plea negotiations.  While this may seem like a beneficial outcome, the offer to dismiss the repeater enhancer often has no effect on the actual sentence.  This is because defendants rarely receive the maximum penalty.  So if the defendant is facing a 10-year sentence and the DA is only going to recommend 3 years, the fact that the judge is now bound to the original 10-year maximum instead of a 14-year maximum is quite inconsequential.

Repeater enhancers are not to be taken lightly, however.  If you are facing a charge with a repeater enhancer, you need a skilled attorney on your side.  Attorney Matthew Meyer and Attorney Benjamin Van Severen have represented defendants charged as repeaters.  Contact one of our attorneys today!