Court of Appeals Clarifies Ignition Interlock Requirements/Prior Convictions

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals recently clarified in Village of Grafton v. Seatz that even when a defendant’s prior OWI conviction is more than ten years old, the court must still order the installation of an ignition interlock device if the defendant is convicted of a subsequent OWI charged as a first offense. The defendant, Seatz, was stopped for OWI in September, 2012. He did not challenge the stop or arrest in municipal court or circuit court, but did challenge whether the ignition interlock requirement set forth in § 343.301, Wis. Stats. applied.

Seatz had a prior OWI conviction in Michigan, but by the time of the September 2012 stop, it was more than ten years old so he was not charged with a second offense. The court differentiated between the statute used for purposes of determining penalties for prior OWI convictions, §§ 346.65, and the statute relevant here, § 343.307(1), which outlines the method of counting prior convictions with respect to imposing the ignition interlock device. While § 346.65(2)(am)2. prevented Seatz from being charged or penalized for a second offense based upon the Michigan OWI, the terms of § 343.301(1g)(b)2. acknowledged the prior conviction for purposes of determining whether an ignition interlock device must be ordered by the court. The court referenced the fact that the legislature clearly chose not to incorporate the ten-year limitation from § 346.65(2)(am)2. into § 343.307(1) or § 343.301(1g)(b)2. as an indication that it did not intend the ten-year limitation to apply with respect to the ignition interlock issue. Ultimately, the court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s order requiring Seatz to install the ignition interlock device.

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