Jailed For 8 Months Without Criminal Charges: Attorney John Birdsall Offers Legal Perspective
In a subscribers-only article for the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Attorney John Birdsall shared his input on an unusual case involving a 39-year-old Vesper woman who has been held in jail without charges filed for almost nine months.
The woman was arrested by law enforcement in the aftermath of a fatal motorcycle crash that took place in Port Edwards. Technically, Wisconsin law does not limit the amount of time someone can be held behind bars before filing charges. With that being said, as put by Attorney Birdsall, “This is really wrong.”
Vesper Woman Jailed After Alleged Drunk Driving Incident Last September
The Vesper woman in question was first arrested on the night of September 16th, 2022 after her vehicle allegedly crashed into the back of 47-year-old Casey L. Wulf’s motorcycle, resulting in his death. According to a breath test issued by law enforcement, the woman’s blood alcohol content was 0.183%, which is more than twice the legal limit for Wisconsin drivers.
The woman immediately found herself in a tight legal bind. Her husband filed for divorce three days after her arrest, freezing her assets and preventing her from paying the $250,000 bail set by Wood County Circuit Judge Todd Wolf. This also resulted in her inability to pay for a criminal defense lawyer, and despite Judge Wolf’s recommendation that she get a court-appointed attorney, she did not initially qualify for one.
Five months after her arrest, she finally received a court-appointed lawyer. In a February 9th bond hearing, Judge Wolf agreed to lower the bail to a $100,000 property bail. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen if she will be able to use a portion of her home value to pay bail, as the woman -- who does not have a lawyer representing her in her divorce -- recently had her request to issue a temporary order about the house denied by the Wood County Court Commissioner.
Birdsall: Holding Woman Without Charges Interferes with Due Process Rights
In the Daily Tribune article, Birdsall noted that holding the woman in jail for this long without charges interferes with her right to due process. He noted that the woman’s attorney may be able to file a writ of habeas corpus. If filed, the sheriff and/or district attorney must prove that the incarceration is justified.
This case has its fair share of complexities. Another driver, a 58-year-old from Nekoosa, allegedly ran over Wulf on the night of the 16th and fled the scene. However, the complicated nature of the case is no excuse for the amount of time this woman has spent needlessly behind bars.
According to Wood County District Attorney Craig Lambert, law enforcement is waiting on the Wisconsin State Patrol to submit an accident reconstruction report before they can officially file charges.