The State of Wisconsin is working hard to overcome its perceived culture of intoxication by imposing tougher DUI penalties.
Wisconsin leads the nation in binge drinking and drunk driving crashes, according to numbers cited in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
But a new push has led to a new series of DUI laws that take effect on July 1, 2010. The new laws include stiffer penalties for drunk drivers found with young passengers, a high blood alcohol content and multiple offenses on record.
The new Wisconsin DUI laws include additional penalties for the following offenses:
- First DUI Offense: A person convicted of a first or second DUI offense who has a passenger under the age of sixteen in the car faces a fine of $350-$1100 or jail time ranging from five days to six months. If a first time offender DUI offender has a blood alcohol level of greater than 0.15 then an interlock ignition device will be installed.
- Third DUI Offense: A person convicted of a third DUI offense will receive at least 45 days in prison. The sentence used to be 30 days.
- Fourth DUI Offense: If an offender is convicted a fourth time within five years, it will be considered a felony. There will also be a fine will between $600 and $10,000, and possible jail time will range between six months to six years.
- Seventh, Eighth, or Ninth Offense: A person convicted of this many DUIs will serve at least three years in jail for each offense.
- Tenth Offense: A person committing a tenth offense would receive at least four years of jail time.
- Repeat DUI offenders: Repeat DUI offenders convicted of DUI causing injury would receive up to six years in jail or would be required to pay up to $2,000 in fines. This punishment would be doubled if there was a minor in the car at the time of the offense.
- Offenders with a lower BAC will face the same penalties: Under the old regulations, offenders with a blood alcohol level below .10 but still above the legal limit were subject to lighter penalties, but that is no longer the case.
The bill is expected to cost Wisconsin an extra $12.8 million per year, largely due to the costs required to house inmates. This cost is expected to be offset by the introduction of higher fees to reinstate revoked or suspended licenses, as well as by a program that would allow judges to decrease jail time in return for offenders completing a drug or alcohol abuse course.
Supporters of the bill say that this will not only drive the cost of the bill down, but decrease the rate of repeat offenders, saving Wisconsin money in the long-term.
Polls indicate that the Wisconsin public is firmly behind the change in the drunk driving laws.
Wisconsin Public Radio and St. Norbert College conducted a survey of 400 people, 85 percent of whom support the bill. Fifty-five percent also support using a higher liquor tax to help finance the bill, though that idea was struck down by Wisconsin Assembly Democrats before the bill was passed.
Group to Push for Changes in Wisconsin DUI Laws
The Wisconsin law is in stark contrast to other states, where parents can be criminally charged for supplying minors with alcohol.
The New York Times recently highlighted that in Wisconsin, kids can drink legally. Children that are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, who gives consent, can be served alcohol in bars and restaurants in the state.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin also stands out as the state where more people drink and drive than anywhere else in the country. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that the state has the highest incidence of DUI-related (OWI-related) deaths in the United States.
A campaign for tougher DUI laws was recently launched by a coalition called All-Wisconsin Alcohol Risk Education. The group also wishes to promote a greater general awareness of drinking problems and will push for increased screening for alcohol abuse at health clinics.
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Wisconsin is known for being one of the leading states in DUIs. According to a recent study by the Journal Sentinel more than 475,000 people have at least one DUI conviction and 8,000 have five or more DUI convictions.
Total DUI covered the study earlier this month, but a more recent story in the Journal Sentinel reported that there is a Wisconsin man with 15 DUIs.
Mark Allen Warner of River Falls was convicted of driving under the influence 15 times before his 40th birthday.
He wasn’t sentenced to prison until he had been convicted for the fifteenth time. For 11 DUI offenses, his blood alcohol level averaged .212.
State Law Provides Illinois DUI Memorial Signs
Under a new Illinois DUI law, memorial signs for those killed in drunken driving accidents may be requested by the victims’ families. A sign with Caitlin’s name and the date of the accident that took her life was the first to be requested under “Tina’s Law.” The law is named for Tina Ball, a construction worker with seven children who was killed by a drunken driver while working on I-57 during September 2003. Read more.
Study Shows Felony Wisconsin DUI Offenders are Avoiding Prison
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that lawmakers intended to get repeat Wisconsin OWI (DUI) offenders off the road. However, an analysis of Wisconsin DUI sentencing has shown that less than half of the people who are sentenced for fifth-offense drunken-driving in Milwaukee County end up serving time in prison. View the full article.
Drug Testing Drivers Could Become as Simple as Breath Tests
The National Institute of Health has recently released research guidelines that may lead to the development of new testing methods for drug abuse that can be used as routinely as breath tests. These guidelines were published in the August journal Addiction. Read on.
After four-year-old Jon Port’s death in 1991, a grass-roots movement began to get stricter DUI laws passed in Wisconsin.
Finally in 1999, a law was passed that made a fifth offense of drinking and driving a felony. The Wisconsin government hoped this new law would keep repeat offenders of DUIs off the road.
However, the Journal Sentinel completed an analysis that found that less than half the people sentenced for a felony DUI in Milwaukee County go to prison.
The survey looked at all criminal convictions for people convicted of five DUI offenses. There were 161 fifth offense cases from 1999 to 2006.
According to the report, only 70 defendants went to prison, while most got their sentence reduced by completing boot camps, treatment programs or petitioning the judge. The survey also found that about 25% of the people with fifth-offense convictions have already re-offended at least once.
It’s hardly news that underage teenagers have drinking parties, unfortunately. But this one has a bit of a twist.
Sheriff’s deputies in Florence, Wisc. were alerted to an underage drinking party. When they arrived, a vehicle was leaving the alleged party. When a deputy followed the vehicle, he found it in a ditch less than a mile down the road, with the occupants out of sight in the nearby woods.
Several more vehicles coming from the direction of the party, and officers duly stopped each vehicle. One of the vehicles, however, sped off after being ordered to stop, leading the deputies on a high-speed chase for a few minutes before slamming into a snow bank in a hay field.
Five of the teens either surrendered or were captured shortly after, though deputies continued searching for a while to round up all eight teens that had spilled from the car. Eventually, the deputies left. Without shoes on, three of the teens stayed all night in the unheated vehicle after hiding out somewhere in the hay field.
The three suffered frostbite and were taken to a local hospital, where officers did finally catch up to them. A total of seven minors in possession of alcohol citations were issued to the party-goers.
For more crazy DUI stories like this one, check out Total DUI’s unusual DUI news page.