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1989 Wisconsin Law Review 441 (1989)
Copyright 2015 by The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System; Reprinted by permission of the Wisconsin Law Review


In Wisconsin, trial courts have discretion to modify a defendant's criminal sentence if the defendant introduces a "new factor." Published Wisconsin case law gives little guidance on what constitutes a new factor. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has declined to find a new factor present in every case it has published since defining "new factor" in 1978. Because of ambiguous and conflicting rulings, the standards for both prongs of the new factor definition remain unclear. This Comment attempts to shed light on the new factor requirement for sentence modification by examining Wisconsin trial court decisions on a limited sample of sentence modification motions. This study reveals that trial courts modified sentences in a variety of cases to effect their intent in sentencing the defendant when it has been frustrated, to respond to a change in a defendant's health or family circumstances, or to reward a defendant for cooperating with the district attorney after sentencing. These grounds for sentence modification are offered in other states through statutory exceptions to the time limits governing sentence modification motions. This Comment concludes that Wisconsin's sentence modification law, though frought with confusion at the appellate level, nonetheless provides defendants with a broader and more flexible form of post-con- viction relief than that provided in states where statues define the factors justifying a sentence modification.