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NGI – “Serious Property Damage”

State v. Wendy A. Brown, 2010 WI App 113; for Brown: William E. Schmaal, SPD, Madison Appellate; BiC; Resp.; Reply

The significant risk of “serious property damage” underlying an NGI institutionalization-commitment, § 971.17(3)(a), doesn’t require physical damage to property; loss of money or goods — from identity theft in this instance — suffices:

¶13      The above definitions of property and damage are much broader than that which would be required to support Brown’s limited interpretation of property damage.  Property generally includes both tangible and intangible items, including land, goods, money, and information rights; while damage generally includes loss of, harm to, and reduction in value or usefulness of, property.  Thus, considered in isolation from the statute, property damage would generally be understood to include losses of money or goods typically suffered as the result of theft, burglary, and fraud—the types of conduct at issue in this case.

¶14      Additionally, while Brown stresses context in her argument, she entirely ignores the larger statutory context and manifest intent of the statute.  WISCONSIN STAT. § 971.17(3)(a) requires institutionalization if release of the person poses a sufficient risk of either bodily harm or serious property damage, and compels conditional release in the absence of such risks.  The clear purpose of the statute, then, is to protect the community, while imposing the least restrictive restraint of liberty consistent with that purpose.  The specific clause we are construing, however, pertains solely to the community protection component.

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