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COURT SAYS SUSPENSION FOR POT IS MANDATORY

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Wausau - Wisconsin judges have no discretion in deciding whether to suspend
the driver's licenses of people convicted of misdemeanor possession of
marijuana, the state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

"It is a mandatory penalty," the 3rd District Court of Appeals panel said
in upholding a Barron County judge's ruling and clarifying a 1991 law.

According to court records, Jacob E. Herman, 27, of Rice Lake was charged
in December 2000 with misdemeanor possession of cocaine and misdemeanor
possession of methamphetamine after he let a police officer search his
apartment on a tip that drugs were in the home.

As part of a plea bargain, Herman pleaded no contest to misdemeanor
possession of marijuana and the other charges were dropped, court records
say. Circuit Judge Edward Brunner placed Herman on probation for one year
and suspended his driver's license for six months.

Herman asked Brunner not to take away his driver's license, arguing that he
was not driving at the time of the crime and he needed his car because he
was starting a computer business.

Brunner ruled that he had no discretion to impose less than a six- month
suspension of Herman's driving privileges, and Herman appealed.

The three-judge appeals court panel said Tuesday that the law at issue was
created in 1991 in response to federal legislation requiring states to
revoke driver's licenses for drug offenses or suffer the loss of federal
highway funds.

The Legislature did not allow judges any discretion to consider "compelling
circumstances warranting an exception" to a minimum six- month suspension,
the panel said.

The Legislature required suspensions "in all circumstances," the appeals
court said.


Newshawk: Sledhead
Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2001
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2001 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Contact: jsedit@onwis.com
Website: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Milwaukee and Wisconsin breaking news and investigations
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