State ups some penalties for drunken driving Jan. 1
MADISON | Repeat drunken drivers will face more time behind bars in Wisconsin starting New Year’s Day under a law the state Legislature passed overwhelmingly nearly a year ago.
The new law doesn’t make the first offense a criminal violation, leaving Wisconsin as the only state that treats a first offense as a civil violation.
Advocates for sober driving say lawmakers need to go further in the upcoming session, starting by expanding ignition interlock use.
The new law makes a fourth drunken driving offense a felony punishable by up to six years in prison regardless of when it’s committed. Right now, a fourth offense is a felony only if it’s committed within five years of a third offense.
The law also increases the maximum sentence for fifth and sixth offenses from three years to five. Maximum sentences for seventh, eighth and ninth offenses will increase from five years to seven years and six months. The maximum sentence for a 10th or subsequent offense will increase from seven years and six months to a decade in prison.