Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Tuesday that will impose steep penalties for individuals who aid family members whom are felons from evading law enforcement officials.
Until now, Wisconsin law prohibited the harboring or aiding of a felon as well as destroying or hiding physical evidence from law enforcement officials. However, these laws did not apply to the felon’s spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents or grandchildren.
The new law eliminates the family member exemption and establishes fines of up to $25,000 and imprisonment up to 10 years, according to the bill.
According to a statement released by Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, the new provisions will allow for law enforcement officials to apprehend felons who belong behind bars.
“At the public hearings, prosecutors shared horrific stories of family members hiding a homicide victims car, cleaning blood stains and discarding shell casings,” Bies said in the statement. “Under current law, our prosecutors’ hands are tied because they’re prevented from charging a family member with a crime that accurately reflects their level of involvement in covering up the crime.”
The bill, introduced into the Legislature 12 years ago, was championed by a woman named Shirley George when her grandson was murdered after being mistaken for another man.
George wanted to change the law after the individuals who helped the escape of her grandson’s murderer received light sentences, according to the statement.
“I feel like justice has found us now,” George told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I hope my experience and tenacity will help encourage other people to stick to their feelings, too. But truly my love for Joey has been the driving force.”
About a dozen other states across the country have similar exemptions for family members.