Another dubious OWI honor for Wisconsin

Over the past few years, news reports of Wisconsin's alcohol consumption and drunk driving records may have stained the state's reputation. After all, this is the only state where your first OWI offense is not a crime. However, a recent report from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers places the state under even harsher light.

Since enacting the ignition interlock requirement for certain drivers convicted of OWI, Wisconsin leads the country in incidents of drivers with interlock systems attempting to start their cars while legally intoxicated. In fact, in just five years, the state has recorded 10 percent of the nation's total interventions since 2006. If you are facing a repeat OWI charge, you may be interested in the legislative changes ahead as a reaction to MADD's latest statistics.

Changes are coming

Spokespeople for MADD feel the state needs to do more to improve compliance with the interlock system. This may be hard for you to disagree with since there is no current penalty for someone convicted of OWI who fails to have the court-ordered interlock installed in his or her vehicle. About 28 percent of drivers ordered to install ignition interlock systems never comply with the order.

In response, lawmakers are proposing the following changes:

  • Judges may set a deadline for when you must install the interlock on your vehicle.
  • Judges may order interlock systems at your expense on every vehicle you own.
  • This order will cost you about $1,500 a year to rent, plus surcharges and installation fees.
  • Failing to install the system will result in the court extending the suspension of your driving privileges.
  • Prison sentences for fifth and sixth OWI convictions may triple in length.

Legislators have been working for years to toughen drunk driving laws in Wisconsin, and this report may provide the impetus they need to pass the bills for harsher penalties.

You still have rights

Even if police have told you that your OWI arrest has already decided your fate, you have the right to another opinion. Seeking the counsel of an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest will allow your lawyer to examine the evidence and locate the flaws in their case. Your attorney will weigh the benefits of challenging any aspect of your arrest that may have been inappropriate.

DUI, DWI and OWI convictions can have a negative impact on many areas of your life. Even a first offense is a mark on your record that influences the consequences of any future convictions. A lawyer will use knowledge and experience to explore every option for your defense.

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