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Wisconsin's new DUI law gets tough on fourth offense

Wisconsin lawmakers were busy in 2017, and 2018 will reveal the proof of their accomplishments. Apparently unsatisfied with the reputation the state has as one of the most lenient states for DUI penalties, lawmakers recently passed a bill tightening the laws for drunk driving and increasing the severity of related penalties.

If you have been lax in finding alternative ways home after a few drinks, you may want to consider how the new laws will affect you in the event that you receive a charge and conviction for drunk driving, especially if you have three prior convictions. Not only does the BAC for a fourth offense drop to .02, but the penalties are about to get tougher.

New penalties taking effect in 2018

Currently, the laws in Wisconsin treat your first three DUIs as misdemeanors and your fourth DUI as a felony, if it occurs within five years of your previous conviction. If you have three recent drunk driving convictions on your record already, the new laws taking effect may especially concern you. They include the following changes:

  • After your fourth conviction, you will lose your driving privileges permanently.
  • The same penalty will apply after two DUI convictions if you also have a record of homicide by motor vehicle or other motor vehicle felonies.
  • Authorities will not look back five years for past convictions but will consider any past DUI conviction, no matter how long ago it occurred.
  • Unlike the current allowance, you will no longer be able to apply for an occupational license after a fourth conviction.

An occupational license allows you to drive for restricted purposes if authorities have suspended or revoked your driver's license. If you have an occupational license, you may still drive to fulfill your obligations, such as going to and from work, taking your children to school, attending to household errands -- such as getting groceries -- and keeping appointments. These appointments often include your court-ordered driving classes or alcohol treatment sessions.

You have a lot at risk!

Some lawmakers expressed concern about the stipulation of removing the option for an occupational license since Wisconsin has many rural areas. If you live miles from your job, depending on others for a ride to work may be a challenge. The expense of taking a taxi will add up quickly. However, if the court convicts you of a fourth DUI, you may have no choice if you want to keep your job.

The stakes are much higher and the BAC much lower for a fourth DUI. Because of this, you don't want to face these charges alone, and you certainly want to have the legal representation of someone who has proven experience in defending such charges.

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