Child neglect bill would offer harsher punishments for offenders

Attorney General Brad Schimel is teaming up with state lawmakers to fight child neglect. 

Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, and Rep. Cody Horlacher, R-Mukwonago, were joined by Schimel Wednesday afternoon to introduce their new legislation. If passed, it would give prosecutors more resources to convict child neglect cases.

"It's long overdue to give prosecutors the ability to charge long term neglect as an ongoing course of conduct so that we can achieve justice for child victims and prevent offenders from committing future crimes against that child," Schimel said.

Currently, Wisconsin law requires the state prove a person who neglected a child did so intentionally. Those proposing the new bill said that neglect is unintentional by nature, and this new bill would get rid of any confusion.

The law also states a prosecutor can only charge a felony if the child has died as a result of neglect.

"In almost every case, neglect is only a misdemeanor offense no matter the consequences. As long as those consequences fall short of the death of the child," Schimel said.

The proposal would increase penalties for severe neglect and give less severe penalties for less severe cases. It also allows prosecutors to charge for multiple acts against the same child.

The bill comes with a drug endangered child component, which would protect children from neglect resulting from the use, distribution or manufacturing of controlled substances.

A similar piece of legislation failed last session, but lawmakers are confident the modifications will help it pass this time around.

The bill is currently circulating for co-sponsors and Schimel asks Wisconsin residents to look at the bill, which can be found on the state Legislature's website, then contact their state representative or senator if they want it to pass.

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