Wisconsin criminals on the run turn to family members to hide murder guns, bloody clothes, stolen loot, and other evidence. The family helpers can’t be charged under a long-standing state law, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Prosecutors say the situation is common and hurts investigators’ ability to solve serious crimes. About a dozen states have similar laws. Wisconsin’s version is among the most liberal, exempting more family members and allowing them to even plant false evidence without fear of prosecution.
“That’s incredible,” said Scott Burns of the National District Attorneys Association. “The people who typically engage in harboring are the very people exempted – parents, spouses, children. ? It begs the question: Why even have the statute?” A bill that would remove the protection for family members and add more prison time for anyone breaking the law has stalled repeatedly. The current law helps fugitives escape the law, hampers prosecutions and creates unnecessary danger for police officers hunting for suspects, according to prosecutors, legislators and crime victims. Defense attorneys and some legislators say without the current law, family members who think they are simply helping a loved one but don’t have all the facts could wind up being prosecuted.