Wisconsin Starts New Year with Tougher DWI Laws

Wisconsin State Capitol building, National Historic Landmark. Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Night scene, horizontal composition.

With the start of the New Year, Wisconsin has put into action a number of new DWI penalties that previously passed the state’s legislature in April.

Despite stiffer penalties, the new law notably does not make driving drunk for first time offenders a criminal penalty, leaving Wisconsin as one of the only states where such infractions are considered civil violations, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Under the Wisconsin DUI law changes for 2017, maximum sentences for fifth and sixth-time offenders have been upped to five years. The previous maximum for those was set at three years. Additionally, fourth time offenses are now a felony. Previously, they were treated as felonies if only occurring within five years of the previous offense.

Frank Harris with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) noted that the law closes existing loopholes, remarking in the AP report that “by the time someone’s a repeat offender prosecutors need every tool in the tool box.”

Wisconsin has long been considered by experts to have some of the most lenient DWI laws in the nation. In a report from Wallet Hub last year, Wisconsin ranked #37th in terms of strictness.