Wisconsin’s New Mandatory Sentencing For Repeated OWI Convictions

Motorists facing a fifth or sixth charge for operating while intoxicated may require a strong defense to avoid a serious felony-level punishment. On February 28, 2020, Wisconsin’s governor signed into law tougher penalties for OWI offenses. Individuals convicted of a fifth or sixth OWI may receive a mandatory minimum sentence of at least six to 18 months of imprisonment.

Prior to the law’s passage, approximately 42,000 Wisconsin residents had a fifth or sixth OWI offense that resulted in conviction. As reported by WTMJ-TV, many of those motorists did not receive a punishment that required incarceration. They may have instead paid a mandatory fine or had their driver’s license suspended.

An individual may serve a sentence on probation 

Individuals convicted of OWI may enter into a bargain with the court and ask to serve part of the new mandatory sentence on probation. Because housing an individual in jail requires using taxpayer-funded resources, a prosecutor may approve a punishment that does not include serving an entire sentence behind bars. In situations where there were no bodily injuries or property damage, an individual may have a better chance of the court considering penalties that do not require lengthy imprisonment.

A defendant may contest OWI charges

A Wisconsin judge may now sentence offenders to jail time of up to 10 years if convicted of a fifth or sixth offense. To receive a lesser penalty, a motorist may contest the evidence used to determine his or her impairment at the time of arrest.

A law enforcement official must have probable cause to pull a motorist over before administering a roadside breath test. If a driver swerved off the road, ran a red light or drove over the speed limit, an officer may stop his or her vehicle.

During the traffic stop, a motorist must also show signs of impairment such as slurred speech or a strong odor of alcohol. Without these conditions, an officer may not have cause to request a motorist to submit to a breath test. A strong defense may contest the charges under these circumstances.

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