DUI laws under increasing scrutiny in Wisconsin

Wisconsin legislators have been under significant pressure from many different sources to make changes to existing drunk-driving laws. Many first-time offenders receive only municipal citations for their DUIs, as opposed to criminal charges that are handed down in other jurisdictions, making it the only state to handle DUIs in this way.

Late last year, the Wisconsin Assembly passed two laws that would have made some changes to DUI laws. First-time offenders would have been required to appear in court, in the hopes that this would make them aware of the seriousness of the offense as well as the potential penalties that would apply for later offenses. The Assembly also voted to make all second-offense DUIs a misdemeanor, as well as making all fourth-offense DUIs a felony. Current laws have look-back provisions that limit the amount of time the courts will consider in repeat offender cases.

These bills received support from both parties; however, once they reached the Senate, they were not brought up for a vote. Senators wanted to consider other methods of dealing with DUI offenders, including creating special courts that would hear DUI cases. These courts would not necessarily increase the penalties that would be handed down, but instead would be able to potentially find treatment for offenders who have demonstrated a tendency to abuse alcohol.

Some have criticized the Senate's failure to vote on these bills, which has increased the attention being focused on this issue. Candidates for the state's Attorney General position have expressed some interest in revisiting these laws should they be elected.

With drunk-driving penalties becoming such an important issue within the state, those who have been charged with DUI need to know how these changes could impact their future. Any other DUI convictions could drastically enhance the penalties that they may be facing, and they need to be prepared to offer a strong defense to these allegations.

If you have been charged with driving under the influence, you should contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney before speaking with law enforcement. No matter how accommodating the officers may seem, they are not on your side. They want you to help them gather evidence for their case, and your cooperation may give them exactly what they need.

Your attorney will be able to offer you advice concerning any offers that you may receive, including discussing the potential effect that this may have if have other convictions on your record. It is extremely important that you are taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and your driving privileges.