Judges often have considerable discretion regarding the penalties meted out for drunk driving charges in Wisconsin, which can include harsh sentences, fines and driver's license suspensions. Factors can include circumstances surrounding the DUI incident, whether anyone was injured and the defendant's own character and situation.
A Dodge County Circuit Court recently sentenced a 21-year-old Madison man to 10 years of probation for felony homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle. Additional conditions included abstention from alcohol consumption and attendance at drunk driving programs. If the defendant violates the terms of his probation, however, he could be sentenced to serve any or all of 10 years in prison.
According to court records, the defendant crashed his vehicle on Nov. 28, 2010 after 1:30 a.m. on North Spring Street. The crash killed his passenger, a 21-year-old woman. According to blood tests taken at the time, the defendant was under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana during the incident.
The judge explained that he declined to send the defendant immediately to prison in part because of the severe injuries the defendant sustained during the crash. The defendant is paralyzed from the neck down and requires a ventilator to breathe. He will likely have to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
While circumstances in this case led to a lighter sentence, prior DUI charges can greatly increase the penalties for a DUI conviction. This may even result in a mandatory prison sentence. Defendants in DUI cases need to know about all of their legal options before confronting the charges against them.
Source: Wisconsin State Journal, "Confined to wheelchair, man gets probation for deadly 2010 crash," Aaron Holbrook, Oct. 6, 2012