DUI penalties in Wisconsin could increase if federal bill passes

DUI penalties in Wisconsin could increase if federal bill passes

Since July of 2010, Wisconsin state law has called for the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for any driver convicted of a repeat OWI or convicted of their first offense with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 percent or higher.

These IIDs are expensive, inconvenient and potentially embarrassing for those who are required to have them installed. Despite this, many safety advocates say that their mandatory installation is justified because IIDs are required only for DUI repeat offenders and “hardcore” drunk drivers. But if a new federal law passes, this may no longer be the case.

U.S. lawmakers are currently considering a major transportation bill called the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act. Part of the bill includes a proposal to require IID installation for anyone in the nation convicted of DUI, regardless of BAC or record of previous offenses.

There are, of course, many critics of this provision of the bill, and rightly so. American Beverage Institute president Sarah Longwell has stated that, “We have always argued that in the cases of these low-BAC first-time offenders, a judge should be involved in whether or not it makes sense to actually put an interlock in a person’s car.”

She and other critics believe that this requirement would function as a heavy-handed response which would ultimately make DUI penalties disproportionate to the crime in many cases.

In addition to being unfair to DUI defendants, the law could also create budgetary problems for Wisconsin and other states. Longwell says that enforcing the mandate “is going to take more parole officers, more probation officers and more officers at the DMV.”

Hopefully, the bill will not pass with the proposed DUI provision still attached. Drunk driving laws in Wisconsin are already very tough, but they also provide first-time offenders a chance to reform. Defendants might not have that opportunity under more stringent federal laws.

Source: 9News.com, “Federal law would mandate ignition interlocks for DUI offenders,” Dave Delozier, Jan. 31, 2012