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Disappearing Act

In an interesting development, it was announced that records of many cases on Wisconsin CCAP will be removed 2 years after the case is closed if the case was dismissed, or the individual was acquitted. CCAP (Circuit Court Access Program) has long been a source of debate in the legal community, and the community at large. On one hand, having easy, free, public access to most court cases is an incredibly useful tool. This is true both for attorneys and for litigants. It allows for parties and their attorneys to track dates/times and look at case histories. It also can be very useful to the public to do “background checks” on people. Lots of information can be found on CCAP if that person has been charged with crimes, or is party to lawsuits.

The downside of CCAP, and the reason for the change is incorrect use of these amateur background checks. As an example, CCAP is often used incorrectly (and perhaps illegally) to prevent people from obtaining employment or from renting apartments/homes. Someone that isn’t familiar with the program, or doesn't understand how to read case dispositions, may assume someone is a career criminal, when they have only speeding violations.

Believe it or not, people are occasionally charged with a crime they didn’t commit, or sued for something frivolous. The beauty of the American justice system is that people are provided with their day in court to exonerate themselves. Previously, CCAP would leave the fact that a person was charged with a crime online for everyone to see, nearly forever. Even though CCAP indicates the charges were dismissed, or a person was found not guilty, there were sparse details about the reason, leaving the public to decide for themselves whether the person was a criminal or not.

While I think removing these cases is ultimately a good thing, it will be interesting to see what effect the changes will have on the people that use CCAP for investigation purposes.

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