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Milton police won't release name in marijuana arrest

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
November 23, 2011
— A week after a drug sweep at Milton High School, city police are refusing to release the name of an 18-year-old male arrested for having marijuana, cash and drug packaging material in his vehicle.

The refusal comes despite an open records request tendered by The Gazette.


During the sweep, drug-sniffing dogs reportedly located a significant amount of cannabis along with cash and packaging materials inside a student's car in the high school parking lot. The discovery led to the arrest of the 18-year-old male for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, a felony, Milton police reported.


Milton Police Chief Dan Layber, citing state statutes, wrote that naming the male could damage the integrity of an ongoing investigation and could compromise the safety of individuals, including informants.


According to a 1979 Wisconsin state Supreme Court ruling, an arrest is a completed official act, and in all arrests, the public has a right to know who is being arrested and why.


Attorney Robert Dreps, an expert in Wisconsin open records law, told The Gazette he believes police have no basis for withholding the name of the 18-year-old male.


Dreps said that in this case, the arrest occurred days ago, and in the fish bowl of a relatively small community.


He indicated it's likely local media is the only entity that does not yet know the 18-year-old's identity.


"He's not held incommunicado," Dreps said. "Everybody that wants to know he's arrested already knows. Everybody in the high school knows he was already arrested. That's the practical reality."


The department did release names of a 16-year-old female and a 17-year-old male also arrested in the Nov. 15 sweep. The two were charged with minor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia after drug-sniffing dogs found marijuana in other vehicles in the parking lot.


Under company policy, The Gazette does not report names in petty drug possession charges.



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