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Wis. Juveniles Better Off Getting DUIs at Home Than Out of State

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on December 07, 2010 5:50 AM

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently handed down a confusing decision in a confusing case. However, the lesson from the case is crystal clear: young drivers need to be aware of zero tolerance laws regarding alcohol in their own states, and in any other state they drive in.

The Wisconsin court addressed the case of Gerard Carter, an Illinois man who was 26-years-old when arrested for DUI in East Troy, Wis., reports the Associated Press. Carter already had one prior drunken driving conviction in Wisconsin, so he was charged with it being a second offense. Then prosecutors found out he had been charged with two more violations of the Illinois zero tolerance laws. This law applies to drivers under 21 who either have a trace of alcohol in their system, or who refuse a blood alcohol test.

With the Illinois prior DUI convictions on his record, Carter was then charged with a fourth offense. He appealed his conviction to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. According to the AP, the court found that zero tolerance convictions from the state of Wisconsin don't count as prior offenses, but zero tolerance convictions that occur in other states do.

This leads to the confusing conclusion that underage drivers should stay at home in the state of Wisconsin if they plan to drink and drive. However, as the AP reports, the state high court found the law specifically states DUI convictions under zero tolerance laws in Wisconsin do not count as prior convictions. But according to the opinion by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, convictions from out of state do. The legislature could have addressed out of state convictions, but did not choose to do so.

The final lesson is, as always, avoid drinking and driving. The defendant in this case, Gerard Carter pleaded guilty to the fourth offense charge, was sentenced to eight months in jail, a 2 year suspended license and a $2,000 fine.

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