What is a Penalty Enhancer in Wisconsin - Milwaukee Criminal Defense Attorney

In the state of Wisconsin, some people are subject to what we call penalty enhancers. Penalty enhancers are things that make the sentence for any given crime more severe. A good example: the penalty for receiving an OWI when you have a passenger under the age of 16 means that you’ll have to pay double the maximum fine and spend twice the maximum time imprisoned.

Wisconsin’s Penalty Enhancers

A judge can apply penalty enhancers to a number of convictions in Wisconsin. In some cases, repeat offenders—those people who were previously convicted of a felony or three misdemeanor charges on three separate occasions in the past 5 years—are subject to penalty enhancers.

Also subject to penalty enhancers are:

  • Persistent repeaters. Persistent repeaters are those people with two prior serious felony convictions or with one child sex offense. The judge could sentence you to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
  • Domestic abuse repeaters. A domestic abuse repeater is a person who commits domestic abuse within 72 hours after an arrest or someone who was convicted of one felony or two misdemeanors on two separate occasions in the past 10 years.
  • Users of dangerous weapons during crimes. Using a dangerous weapon to commit a crime, the maximum term of imprisonment can be increased, because this is certainly a penalty enhancer.

Those who commit violent crimes in school zones, those who commit hate crimes and people who commit controlled substance offenses can also be subject to penalty enhancers.

Because there are a variety of possibilities, it’s always best if you consult with a Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer before you head into court. You can never predict how a judge will rule, but Wisconsin’s state laws are very clear about what constitutes a penalty enhancer. It’s never too late to call an attorney, either (although the earlier, the better). Even if you’ve already been arraigned, you’ll benefit from having a talented, caring attorney there to represent you at your trial.