Trial court had no authority to impose nine-year driving ban

In State v. Hobbe, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned an extended driving ban; by statute, driving privileges can be revoked only for 2 to 3 years.

As reported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Wisconsin is alone among the states where the first drunk driving wrongdoing is a traffic ticket-not a crime. In 2012 there were over 33,000 arrests in Wisconsin for operating while intoxicated and over 26,000 convictions for OWI. All in all, there had been over 46,500 three-time OWI offenders and over 8,000 five-time offenders.

However, while MADD may be disappointed with Wisconsin OWI laws, it is important that the laws be enforced fairly and to the letter.

State v. Hoppe

The 2014 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision of State v. Hoppe illustrates, perhaps, an overzealous enforcement of the Wisconsin sentencing of the OWI statutes. In Hoppe, the defendant was convicted of a seventh-level OWI. The defendant was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment, divided equally between the initial 4.5 year period of confinement and 4.5 years of extended supervision. However, since the OWI sentence was ordered to be served consecutive to prior sentences, the defendant could actually be serving a sentence until June 2017 and under supervision until June 2026.

At sentencing, the trial court granted the state's request to revoke the defendant's right to operate a motor vehicle for three years as permitted by statute, which period is tacked on after the end of the extended supervision period. The court also added a condition onto extended supervision which prohibited driving. Thus, the defendant was effectively barred from driving until 2026.

Laudable intent in conflict with statute

The defendant brought a postconviction motion, arguing that the trial court lacked authority to prohibit him from driving during his supervision period. The Wisconsin Supreme Court noted that courts have, generally, undefined, broad discretion to impose conditions during the extended supervision period, and that the driving prohibition was appropriate, reasonable, and was for the protection of the general public. However, this restriction was in conflict with the statutory direction that a license not be revoked or suspended beyond three years.

While the Supreme Court applauded the trial court's intent to protect the public, the trial court's decision conflicted with the legislature's directions as contained in the statutes, which were controlling.

If you find yourself facing an OWI, you should contact an attorney experienced with impaired driving laws in order to best protect your rights and your reputation.

Let the experienced and qualified DUI lawyers at Melowski & Associates, LLC., in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, help you. Contact us by calling 920-299-5074.

Keywords: OWI, seventh-level OWI, criminal defense, postconviction motion, nine-year driving ban, Wisconsin