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Wisconsin legislator wants to toughen DUI laws yet again

Many Waukesha residents will remember that Wisconsin's drunk driving laws have been updated and tightened in recent years. In 2009, for example, the felony threshold was lowered for repeat DUI offenders.

Prior to 2009, a DUI was considered a felony if it was a driver's fifth offense within five years. But the law was then changed to apply felony status to a driver's fourth offense within five years. The 2009 legislation also expanded the use of ignition interlock devices and strengthened penalties for first DUI and OWI offenses.

Now, just a few years later, at least one Wisconsin lawmaker wants to crack down even harder on drunk driving. According to a recent article in the Journal Sentinel, Senator Alberta Darling announced that she will be introducing legislation to apply felony status to a person's third OWI rather than their fourth.

She also plans to propose other changes, such as looking into pilot programs for sobriety checkpoints in Wisconsin. Defending her position, Darling said: "Our laws, even having changed them two years ago, are still much weaker than most others states. We still have so many repeat offenders."

The one silver lining, from a criminal defense standpoint, is that Alberta is apparently also in favor of expanding or supporting substance abuse treatment programs for repeat offenders; many of whom struggle with alcohol or drug addiction.

Wisconsin's DUI laws may be weaker than in some states, but that does not mean a DUI defendant is free from potential consequences. Those who are charged with drunk driving face significant risks to their reputation, their finances and their very freedom.

DUI laws in Wisconsin will likely only get tougher, which is why anyone charged with DUI or OWI may wish to seek the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lawmakers consider tougher measures for drunken drivers," Alison Bauter, July 3, 2012

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