Wisconsin Assembly passes new OWI laws

Wisconsin lawmakers are cracking down on drunk driving. In November 2013, the Wisconsin Assembly passed three bills that would increase the penalties for Operating While Intoxicated offenses for those who have previous OWI offenses on their records. Wisconsin residents should be aware of the potential changes to the state's laws regarding drunk driving.

Increasing OWI penalties

The legislation targets drivers with multiple OWI offenses. One of the provisions of one of the bills would make a second OWI offense a misdemeanor in all cases, punishable by a fine between $350 and $1,100.00 and between five days and six months in jail. Currently, the law allows a second OWI offense to be treated as a first offense, which often times is only a municipal violation under Wisconsin law, if the first offense is more than 10 years old. The bill would also change the law so that all fourth OWI convictions are felonies, which are punishable by mandatory minimum fines of $600 and between six months and six years in prison. As the law stands right now, if the three previous OWI offenses happened more than five years prior to the fourth offense, the fourth offense is a treated as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Another bill would mandate court appearances for all first OWI offenses. In most cases, first OWI offenses are municipal violations, so people may pay their fines without ever going to court - similar to the way people handle speeding tickets.

All of the bills still need to pass the Senate before being presented to the governor for his signature.

Ignition interlock

Another one of the bills that the Assembly passed deals with ignition interlock. Currently, Wisconsin law requires those with second and subsequent OWI convictions, as well as those whose blood alcohol concentration was 0.15 or higher for a first OWI conviction, to install ignition interlock devices on any vehicle they drive. The bill would prohibit people who are ordered by the court to install ignition interlock devices but fail to do so from driving any vehicles until the monitoring period is over.

Speak with an attorney

OWI offenses often result from people making mistakes, and people end up with the stress and worry associated with having to go through the legal system. With the ever-increasing penalties for OWI offenses, a lot is at stake when a person faces an OWI charge. Those who have been arrested for drunk driving should consult a skilled OWI defense lawyer who can help mitigate the damage that such convictions can do to people's lives.