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Former Wisconsin lawmaker involved in complicated DUI case

In an election year, the media and the public in general tend to scrutinize the nation's lawmakers even more heavily than usual. One former Wisconsin state senator has been under a great deal of scrutiny lately for an issue somewhat distinct from his voting record.

Late last month, former Senator Randy Hopper was deemed not guilty of drunk driving by a jury of six women. However, a charge related to refusal of a blood alcohol test is still pending.

The refusal charge carries a weighty penalty if Hopper is found guilty. First-time drunk driving suspects may generally refuse blood alcohol tests in Wisconsin, but can be heavily penalized for doing so. In addition, refusal convictions count as prior offenses for the purposes of sentencing any future infractions.

Hopper has argued that his voting record has biased county employees against him. In particular, his defense attorney and the special prosecutor have called substantial attention to the positions held by Hopper and certain law enforcement members with regard to the recall election.

Though the jury may have been swayed by these arguments with regard to the initial drunk driving charge, it has yet to be seen whether the presiding judge will find perceived bias to be reason enough to dismiss the refusal charge.

It is worth noting that when Hopper was taken to jail, the preliminary breath test he was given registered well above the legal limit. Though results of this particular test are inadmissible in a trial setting, it is somewhat unclear whether the judge may or may not consider the results when contemplating the refusal charge.

Regardless of the outcome, this case serves as an interesting example of the complexities involved in Wisconsin drunk driving cases.

Source: TheNorthwestern.com, "Jury finds former Republican State Senator Randy Hopper not guilty of drunken driving," Russell Plummer, March 24, 2012

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