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Could drivers face jail for a first-time DUI?

A first-time DUI is a civil infraction in Wisconsin, the only state that does not criminalize the offense. Enjoying a little too much bubbly and getting behind the wheel may only leave you with a fine if it is the first time you have gotten pulled over for it.

Now, however, a handful of lawmakers have their sights set on changing that. Under a new bill making the rounds throughout the Wisconsin legislature, a first-time DUI would come with a fine up to $500 and a 30-day stint behind bars.

Reasons for the bill

The state legislature has taken up the mantle of reforming the state's DUI laws due in large part to the state accident statistics. The data from 2015 shows that in a span of just under three hours, one person gets injured or killed by an impaired driver. On New Year's Eve, a driver suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence struck and killed a firefighter who stopped to help a car on the roadside.

First offense record expungement

Attempts to reform the state's drunk driving laws have failed in the past, but it is not stopping the effort to give it another shot. Under the bill, not only would first-timers get jail time and stiffer fines, but this conviction may get expunged if they do not get another DUI conviction for five years. This is an attempt to allow those people caught up in a one-time poor choice the chance to clear their record.

The cost to the prison system high

One of the most expensive aspects of the bill is the proposal that requires those convicted of DUI-related homicide to spend a mandatory five years in prison. It also would increase prison sentences for subsequent offenses, in some cases tripling the minimums. Prisons would need an influx of cash flow to accommodate these high mandatory sentences for DUI convictions.

The same lawmakers putting forth this package have submitted other proposed DUI law change packages in the past.

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