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State v. William M. Onheiber, 2009 WI App 180, AG’s PFR 12/21/09

court of appeals decision, pro se

Detainer, definition, nationwide arrest warrant

Issue/Holding: Faxing to the defendant’s prison an arrest warrant and complaint, followed by verbal confirmation of the validity of same, satisfied the § 976.05 definition of “detainer,” notwithstanding the issuing authority’s express disavowal to the prison of intent to lodge a detainer.

 ¶11   We fail to see how the foregoing could possibly not demonstrate “notification filed with the institution in which a prisoner is serving a sentence, advising that he is wanted to face pending criminal charges in another jurisdiction.” Indeed, we recently referred to a nationwide arrest warrant interchangeably as a detainer. See Tarrant, 772 N.W.2d 750, ¶3.

 ¶12   Nonetheless, the State argues the nationwide arrest warrant should not be considered a detainer because the prison learned of it indirectly, and because the warrant is similar to a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, which was determined in Eesley not to constitute a detainer.

 ¶13   We reject the notion that how a prison first learns of a warrant or pending charges has any bearing on whether a detainer has been lodged. What matters is whether a notification satisfying the definition of a detainer is filed. Here, the sheriff’s department confirmed the existence of the nationwide arrest warrant and pending charges, and then faxed copies directly to the prison.

Analysis:   The court impressively catalogs the detrimental effects of a detainer, as distinguished from a “temporary writ” such as habeas corpus ad prosequendum, ¶¶14-18. And, the court all but holds that a “nationwide arrest warrant” is enough, ¶13 n. 8 (“Although we need not decide the issue in light of the direct delivery of the warrant and complaint in this case, a strong argument can be made that mere entry of a nationwide arrest warrant into the NCIC or a similar national database is sufficient to constitute the lodging of a detainer when a prison learns of the warrant by accessing that database.”). Very strong reaction, too, to the non-detainer rationale which apparently tested the outer limit of the court’s patience (relatively uncharted terrain, at least with respect to State argumentation; nor, if you happen to be the trial judge who agreed with that rationale, can you be pleased with the tone), worth quoting in full:

 ¶19   The State cannot file a detainer but then circumvent the requirements of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers by simply informing prison officials the State does not want the detainer to be called a detainer. Such a result would be farcical. Given that the facts of this case fit precisely within the established definition of a detainer, and given the State’s knowledge of the continuing and irreversible detrimental effects of the detainer on Onheiber, the State’s position in this case is unfortunate. The district attorney and attorney general are:

 the representative[s] not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. 

 Nelson v. State, 59 Wis. 2d 474, 483, 208 N.W.2d 410 (1973) (quoting Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 (1935)). Our supreme court further recognized: “The office of prosecutor is an agency of the executive branch of government which is charged with the duty to see that the laws are faithfully executed and enforced in order to maintain the rule of law.” Id. (quoting ABA Project on Standards for Criminal Justice, The Prosecution Function and The Defense Function, § 1.1(a)). The State’s handling of this case does not promote the rule of law.

Detainers, § 976.05 – Definition, Nationwide Arrest Warrant as Satisfying