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Drunk driving penalties become more severe on Jan. 1

Wisconsin motorists should be aware that the consequences for repeat drunken drivers were scheduled to become more severe starting Jan. 1, 2017. According to the state government affairs director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the laws close loopholes that existed in the state legislature.

Under the rules, a person's first drunk driving offense will still be treated as a civil violation. The fourth offense, however, is now a felony that can potentially be punishable by up to six years in prison with no time limit on when the offense actually occurs. Under the former law, the fourth offense was only considered to be a felony if the person was convicted within five years of the last drunk driving offense.

Additionally, those who are convicted for their fifth and sixth offenses can face up to five years in prison. Those who are convicted of seventh, eight and ninth offenses could face up to seven years and five months in prison. Although punishments for repeat offenders have become more strict, there is a push to increase the severity of consequences for first-time offenders as well. Advocates are pushing for the introduction of interlock devices on vehicles for all offenders.

Because the penalties for a drunk driving conviction are severe and can include license revocation and heavy fines, having a defense strategy can help reduce the potential consequences. If this is a person's first offense, a criminal defense attorney might negotiate with the prosecutor so that the defendant can keep their license and drive to work while the case is ongoing. If there is evidence that the traffic stop was made without the requisite reasonable suspicion, the attorney could seek to get the case dismissed.

Source: CBS Minnesota, "Wisconsin Increasing Some Drunk Driving Penalties On Jan. 1", Dec. 27, 2016

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