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Proposed bill ups penalties for drunken driving charges

Wisconsin drivers who are convicted of repeated drunk driving offenses can face progressively harsher penalties for their subsequent convictions. With jail sentences and fines standard for drunk driving charges, some people may expect that the consequences of a drunk driving conviction are sufficient to deter further arrests.

A state legislator does not agree with this sentiment and has proposed a bill that would require Wisconsin judges to impose jail sentences of 3 years for individuals convicted of their seventh, eighth and ninth drunk driving arrests. Under the proposed law, anyone convicted of a tenth drunk driving charge would be subject to a mandatory 4 years in jail. A recent decision by a state court found that a 2009 state law that attempted to make these jail sentences mandatory for the stated convictions gave judges some discretion in deciding if jail time is the right penalty for those convicted of drunk driving. The new bill would make jail time a requirement of all drunk driving convictions.

The Republican sponsor of the proposed bill has faced little opposition to the potential law, though another state official has expressed some concern over what the proposed law would do to the state's prison population and how taxpayers would have to fund the influx of drunk driving-related inmates. The bill's sponsor has received support from other state Republicans and some Democrats, suggesting that when the bill is formally introduced this summer it will likely face little legislative resistance.

While facing a drunk driving conviction is always a serious matter, the consequences of such a conviction may get more serious if the proposed bill passes into law. People facing drunk driving charges do have rights that legal specialists can help protect during drunk driving-related trials.

Source: Green Bay Press Gazette, "Drunken driving bill gets little opposition," May 2, 2013

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