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Bond posted on dismissed case can be applied to a fine imposed on a conviction in another case

State v. Erwin D. Beckom, 2012AP159-CR and 2012AP160-CR, District 4, 3/7/14; court of appeals decision (1-judge, ineligible for publication); case activity

The trial court properly applied bond posted in one case to a fine imposed in a different case even though the complaint in the case in which the bond was posted was dismissed:

¶9        Beckom interprets the statutory language “the complaint against the defendant has been dismissed … the entire sum deposited shall be returned” in Wis. Stat. § 969.02(7) as meaning that bond money relating to dismissed charges can never be applied to fines relating to different charges. Beckom argues that the only bond that can be applied to a fine is a bond that was posted for the specific crime of conviction for which the fine was imposed. Thus, according to Beckom, the circuit court here impermissibly applied the bond he posted relating to his dismissed bail jumping charges to the charge of conviction. We conclude that Beckom’s interpretation of the statute is unreasonable.

¶10      Under Beckom’s interpretation, a defendant charged with assault, but for whom that assault charge was dismissed and reduced to disorderly conduct, could not be required to apply a bond posted for the assault charge to a fine for the conviction of disorderly conduct. This result is absurd. If Beckom means to argue that the “bond” charges in this case were insufficiently related to the charge of conviction to permit the application of the bond to the fines, he does not develop such an argument.

Let’s agree it would be absurd to say bond posted for an “assault” charge could not be applied to a fine imposed for a disorderly conduct charge where the DC was the crime of conviction because the assault charge was amended to DC (presuming that “amended” is what the court meant by “dismissed and reduced”). Clearly, both the assault and the DC are part of the same “prosecution,” so applying the bond posted for the assault to the fine for the DC is dictated by § 969.02(6)’s mandate that when a judgment of conviction is entered in a “prosecution” in which bond was posted, the bond can be applied to restitution and payment of the judgment.

But this case didn’t involve charges being amended. Instead, in the two cases in which bonds were posted, all of the charges were dismissed and read-in (a point we’ll return to shortly). They were not amended (or “dismissed and reduced”) to some other crime for which Beckom was then convicted. The relevant statute, § 969.02(7), says: “If the complaint against the defendant has been dismissed or if the defendant has been acquitted, the entire sum deposited shall be returned.” But the court doesn’t apply this plain language—or explain why the language isn’t plain or why it’s inapplicable to Beckom’s case. Instead, the court’s decision is based on the rejection of the argument “that the only bond that can be applied to a fine is a bond that was posted for the specific crime of conviction for which the fine was imposed.” (¶9). But Beckom doesn’t make that argument, and it’s hard to see how the court could think he did. Other than a stray reference linking bond to “charges,” the argument in his briefs (available here) is grounded on the plain language of § 969.02(7) and asserts that because the cases in which bonds were posted were dismissed, the bonds must be returned. Whatever the reasons for the court’s misreading of Beckom’s argument, the end result is an opinion that rejects an absurd argument that isn’t made and fails to address the plain statutory language argument that is.

Finally, does it matter that the charges were dismissed and read in? The rationale employed by the circuit court (and defended by the state) is that reading in the dismissed charges means the defendant agreed they could be considered at sentencing, supplying the connection that makes the dismissed case part of the “prosecution,” similar to the way reading in works for purposes of restitution under § 973.20, sentence credit under State v. Floyd, 2000 WI 14, 232 Wis. 2d 767, 606 N.W.2d 155, and sentencing generally, see State v. Frey, 2012 WI 99, 343 Wis. 2d 358, 817 N.W.2d 436. The court of appeals explicitly declines to address that rationale (¶6 n.2), and so neither endorses nor rejects it. There are real weaknesses to these other read-in analogies. With respect to restitution, § 973.20 explicitly authorizes restitution for read-in crimes; by contrast, nothing in § 969.02 says bond posted for read-in cases can be applied to fines or costs in cases in which there is a conviction. As to sentence credit, Floyd (¶¶18-31) was based on an ambiguity in § 973.155 and the remedial purposes of the statute. Finally, as to sentencing generally, nothing about reading in a dismissed case for sentencing purposes changes the fact it is dismissed, and that’s the key term in § 969.02(7). On the other hand, Wisconsin’s expansive use of read-ins in sentencing contexts, the malleability of the term “prosecution” in § 969.02(6), and courts’ desire to collect fines and costs will make the trial court’s rationale very attractive to judges considering the question.

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