YET MORE PROPOSED CHANGES IN WISCONSIN OWI / DRUNK DRIVING LAWS.

As happens every few years, new laws are being floated in the Wisconsin legislature aimed at toughening Wisconsin's OWI/DUI drunk driving laws. Seperate bills being taken up this week would provide for the following, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinal story summarizing them:

  •  Eliminate a provision in state law that allows a second offense drunken driving conviction to also be treated as a municipal violation if the driver's first violation happened more than 10 years before. All second offenses would be misdemeanors subject to a fine of $350 and five days in jail.
  • This bill would likewise remove a five-year lookback period after which a person's fourth drunken driving arrest would be treated as a misdemeanor, rather than as a felony. Under the bill, all fourth offenses would be treated as felonies subject to a minimum fine of $600 and between six months and six years behind bars.
  • Require a court appearance in person for everyone charged with first-offense drunken driving. Under current law, many first-offense cases are municipal violations with a fine that can be paid without making an appearance, just like a speeding ticket.
  • Prohibit people required to install ignition interlock devices on their cars from driving other vehicles. The devices are currently required for most second and subsequent offense drunken driving plus first-time cases in which a person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 or greater, refuses to take an intoxication test, or harms another person while driving.

The prediction here at Mastantuono & Coffee is that not all of the proposed changes will become law, due to the increased money they would cost the State in the form of increased incarceration and warrant enforcement. Perhaps more importantly, they would not, in our opinion, reduce recidivism among repeat offenders or cut drunk driving rates overall. The best and most cost-effective methods, in our experience, are treatment-oriented incentive-based practices, such as alcohol treatment courts and probation options that afford those convicted to particpate meaningfully in a program that monitors progress with both incentives and sanctions. The attorneys at Mastantuono & Coffee Law have vast experience at weighing in on local policy supporting these programs, and at shepherding our clients through them successfully. We hope our legislature and local community justice councils continue to foster more of these smart-on-crime approaches.


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