The Mount Pleasant Patch is reporting that Wisconsin has signed a new drunk driving bill into law.
On Wednesday, March 28, Governor Scott Walker signed the bill, SB 135, into law. This bill permanently takes a person’s driver’s license away if they are convicted of at least four offenses related to drunk driving. The offenses considered here include homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle, operating while intoxicated (OWI), homicide by OWI, felony crimes under the state’s motor vehicle code and other offenses. For this to apply to an individual, the fourth offense has to occur within 15 years of their last drunk-driving related conviction.
This new law is not going to be retroactive, but a person who has already been convicted of three drunk-driving related offenses could now lose their license forever if they are convicted of another similar offense. A person who drives after their license has been permanently revoked under the new law will face up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500 if caught. For a second offense, they face a year in jail and a fine of $10,000.
State Representative John Spiros and Senator Van Wanggaard drafted this bill in response to the state’s struggle with repeat drunk drivers. According to the senator, more work is needed to curb the drunk driving problem in Wisconsin, and people who repeatedly drive drunk need to be off the road permanently.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, drunk driving is a real issue in the state, with 5,174 alcohol-related crashes in 2015 alone (http://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/safety/education/drunk-drv/ddcrash.aspx). This averages to a person being injured or killed in a drunk-driving related crash on Wisconsin’s roadways approximately every three hours that year, and alcohol was also a factor in 190 traffic deaths, accounting for a little over one third of all traffic-related deaths.
In 2017, Wisconsin tightened its drunk driving laws in response to its rate of arrests for drunk driving, which hovers around twice that of the national average. Among the changes made at that time was an expansion of the meaning of “injury” in drunk-driving related crashes, the automatic felony for a fourth drunk driving offense and increased prison terms for repeated offenses. The state’s legislature also authorized judges to hand out warrants for involuntary blood draws in civil traffic OWI cases, even if it’s the person’s first offense.
Drunk driving continues to be an issue nationwide, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reporting that close to 29 people across the country die each day as a result of an alcohol-related crash. While deaths related to drunk driving have fallen by about 33 percent over the last 30 years, these types of crashes still account for the loss of more than 10,000 lives in the US every year. These statistics have led states such as Wisconsin to increase the penalties and consequences of driving while drunk offenses.
If you have been injured in a crash with a drunk driver, speak to an experienced lawyer, like an auto accident attorney Denver, CO trusts, about your case.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Office of Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into drunk driving law.