On behalf of Chris Van Wagner of Christopher T. Van Wagner S.C. Criminal Defense posted in DUI on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.

For a long time, Wisconsin has been the only state in the country to treat first-time DUI offenses as civil rather than criminal. Some of the benefits of this include not having to pay more than $300 in fines. First-time DUI offenders were not even required to appear in court. As of January of this year, there have been new bill proposals to tighten these laws.

Understanding the story behind the proposed changes

According to the senators involved with these bill proposals, the rate of DUI-related deaths has recently risen to a concerning level. The past year has statistically shown that, in Wisconsin, an average of one person has died of an alcohol-related crash every 2.9 hours.

In response to these concerns, the proposed bill would mandate those facing their first DUI charge to appear in court. The potential penalties would also be stricter, charging up to $500 in fines and spending 30 days in jail.

At the same time, the proposed laws also offer a way out of a first conviction. First-time offenders who are able to maintain five consecutive years without facing another DUI charge may eventually appeal to have their initial conviction removed.

What this means for drivers

While DUI laws may be getting stricter, the proposed bill also seems to offer a light at the end of the tunnel for those who do get convicted. Yet, the likelihood of these bills getting passed remain uncertain.

Regardless of the future of Wisconsin’s drunk driving laws, it is important not to take any chances. Avoid getting behind the wheel after having a few drinks, even if you are sure you feel sober. Losing your freedom is never worth a few hours of fun.