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Wisconsin Court Rules DUI Sentencing Laws are Unconstitutional

In Wisconsin, as in many states, people face increased penalties for each subsequent DUI conviction after their first. In other words, a person found guilty of a fifth DUI offense can receive a harsher sentence than a person convicted of a fourth DUI offense. Until recently, Wisconsin law permitted prior license revocations for refusal to submit to chemical testing as a prior conviction for the purpose of increasing DUI penalties. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently deemed the scheme unconstitutional, however, as it imposed criminal penalties on people who exercised their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. As in Wisconsin, people convicted of multiple DUI crimes in Illinois face increased penalties, and it is smart for anyone charged with a second or higher DUI offense to consult a trusted Illinois DUI defense lawyer regarding their rights.

The Wisconsin Ruling

In the case that brought about the ruling, the defendant was charged with a DUI, which was his sixth offense. He had his driving privileges previously revoked for refusing to submit to a warrantless blood draw when he was stopped for suspicion of DUI, however. As such, following his conviction, he was sentenced for a seventh DUI crime, which carried greater penalties than a sixth offense, in accordance with Wisconsin’s increased penalty scheme. He subsequently appealed.

It is reported that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the statutory construction permitting the courts to count the revocation of driving privileges for refusing to submit to a blood draw in the absence of a warrant as a criminal offense for the purposes of increasing penalties for repeat DUI offenders was unconstitutional.

Specifically, the court stated that the law in question violated people’s constitutional rights because it threatened to impose criminal penalties on those who exercise the right to be free from unreasonable searches granted by the Fourth Amendment.

Illinois Law Regarding Repeat DUI Offenders

The Illinois courts have not ruled on the issue of whether a license revocation for a refusal to submit to chemical testing qualifies as a prior conviction for the purposes of the DUI increased sentencing scheme. Such an interpretation is arguably not supported by the language of the relevant statute,  however, which expressly refers to violations of the law prohibiting people from operating vehicles with a blood alcohol level of .08% or higher or while under the influence of an intoxicating substance when discussing increased penalties.

Talk to an Experienced Illinois DUI Attorney

Illinois imposes increased penalties for each DUI conviction after the first, and it is wise for anyone charged with a second or higher DUI crime to talk to an attorney about their options. Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC, is an experienced Illinois DUI defense attorney, and if you are faced with DUI charges, he can help you seek a successful outcome in consideration of the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Harvatin by calling 217.525.0520 or using the form online to set up a conference.

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