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State lawmakers vote to make 4th drunk driving offense a felony

Under Wisconsin's current law, a fourth drunk driving offense is only a felony if it occurs within five years of a prior drunk driving conviction. The designation of all fourth time drunk driving offenses as felonies recently took one step closer to becoming a reality when Assembly members voted on the change. The vote, which only had one dissenter, may lay the foundation for a much tougher drunk driving law on Wisconsin's books.

The proposer of the bills stated that his aim was to cut down on repeat drunk drivers in the state, and it seems that many of his colleagues in the Assembly agreed with his bill's terms. Under the bill, a driver would lose his license for 10 years if convicted of a fourth drunk driving offense, though such an individual could apply for a provisional or occupational license during the period of suspension.

While the new bill may provide some deterrence for individuals who have prior drunk driving convictions, its implementation would not be without cost. The state's Department of Corrections believes that changing such charges to felonies would increase its annual operating costs by more than $30 million.

The governor must now review the bill and decide if he will sign it into law. If he does, Wisconsin drivers may face stricter penalties for subsequent drunk driving convictions than they do at present. Defense strategies are available to those who must confront allegations of drunk driving in court, and attorneys who practice DUI and drunk driving defense are apprised of the many changes in drunk driving law that affect their clients' rights.

Source: The Badger Herald, "Bill to increase drunk driving penalties passes through Assembly," Tye Wilson-Swokowski, Feb. 19, 2016

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