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Are OWI penalties in Wisconsin going to get tougher?

At the beginning of 2018, Wisconsin passed stricter penalties for repeat offenders. For example, people convicted of their fourth OWI in a 15-year period can now potentially lose their driving privileges permanently.

 

First-time offenders may see harsher punishments

The laws were passed with support of advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. While MADD approved of the new laws, they have indicated they are not satisfied with what they call less serious laws for first-and second-time offenders.

Wisconsin's state chapter of MADD plans to encourage legislators and the new governor in 2019 to come up with more penalties for people convicted of OWI, including requiring every offender to use an interlock system, which is a device that attaches to a car which a person breathes in. If the blood alcohol content is above a certain amount, the car won't start.

Ignition interlock devices

The state mandates an ignition interlock system for any first-time offender whose BAC was at least .15 at the time of arrest. However, MADD officials say the acceptable level can be negotiated in the courtroom, and in some cases, people who may legally fit the threshold don't need to use one.  

MADD suggests that, instead of deciding who gets an interlock based on courtroom discussions, interlocks are made mandatory for six months for every first-time offender. If they pass this period without incident, their criminal record will be sealed.

What will happen to these proposals is still unclear, but these types of pushes for stricter laws are in line with criminal law changes in other states. With potentially more at stake, finding a defense attorney familiar with the legal system and OWI rules is even more vital. 

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