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New proposal could change OWI laws in Wisconsin

It is currently illegal in Wisconsin to operate a motor vehicle, all-terrain vehicle, utility terrain vehicle, off-highway motorcycle or motorboat when the driver has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. This law seems fairly straight forward at first glance, but like many things in the legal world it is very complicated.

One complication: many laws establish these limits. Anyone accused of a violation faces criminal penalties based on other, similar violations of that specific law. A person accused of a snowmobile violation would face penalties based on any previous snowmobile violations. Previous violations for boating or ATV use would not be taken into consideration.

Some consider this a loophole in the law. As a result, Representative Andre Jacque from De Pere authored a bill that would change drunk driving laws in the state. Rep. Jacque proposed a law that would count all operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) offenses together regardless of the type of vehicle that was in operation at the time of the violation.

Why is this important? The criminal penalties that come with an OWI conviction increase based on a number of factors, including the presence of previous convictions.

Since this new law would allow the courts to review previous violations for the operation of any other qualifying vehicle, the penalties could become much, much more severe than they already are.

Will the proposal become Wisconsin law? The proposal is moving quickly through the legislative process. It was written earlier this year and received a public hearing. Although it appears the bill may become law, it is important to note that Rep. Jacque has presented a similar bill in the past. That attempt failed.

Only time will tell if this proposal completes the process and becomes law.

What can drivers in Wisconsin learn from this process? Regardless of the fate of this law, the story draws attention to the many factors that can impact drunk driving charges in the state. Anyone that is facing OWI charges is wise to build a defense to dismiss or reduce the charges. An attorney experienced in OWI/DUI matters in Wisconsin can help build a defense to minimize the impact of an OWI charge.

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