WI Legislature Passes Tougher DUI Laws
The Legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill to toughen the state's drunken driving laws by making fourth offenses felonies and requiring more offenders to install ignition interlocks on their vehicles.
The legislation would:
• Require ignition interlocks for all repeat drunken drivers and for first-time offenders with blood-alcohol levels of 0.15 or greater. That's nearly twice the legal limit. Ignition interlocks prevent motorists from starting their vehicle until they blow into a tube to show they don't have alcohol in their systems.
• Make a fourth drunken driving offense a felony if it occurs within five years of a previous offense. Drunken driving isn't a felony until the fifth offense in Wisconsin.
• Make first-offense drunken driving a misdemeanor if a child younger than 16 is in the vehicle. All other first-time offenses would remain traffic offenses, rather than crimes. Wisconsin is the only state to treat first offenses that way.
• Expand to the rest of the state a Winnebago County program that gives judges the option of offering reduced jail time to offenders who complete alcohol or drug treatment. County boards would have to approve the program - which backers say would reduce recidivism - for it to be used in their areas.