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Kenosha woman works to enact OWI law change after crash

NOW: Kenosha woman works to enact OWI law change after crash

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – A Kenosha woman shared her story of being hit by a drunk driver who had already been arrested for OWI that same night with lawmakers in hopes of enacting change.

“I could’ve died that day,” Jennifer Kilburn told CBS 58. “If this happens to somebody else it could be a worse situation for them, and I just don’t want this to happen to anybody else.”

Kilburn was driving to work at Aurora Hospital in the early morning hours in August 2018 when her car was struck after another car blew a red light. The driver, Jesse Liddell of Kenosha, had already been arrested for OWI earlier that same night. Liddell, however, was released to his mother from police custody. Liddell was sentenced to six years in prison earlier this year.

Under current law, certain OWI suspects arrested and placed in police custody are able to be released if:

  • It has been more than 12 hours since the arrest
  • They pass a chemical test showing a blood alcohol level of 0.04 or less
  • They are released to a responsible adult at any time after the arrest

Kilburn is working with Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R – Salem) to eliminate or limit that third option.

She testified before an Assembly committee as to why the bill is important. “I’m just trying to make some change to make it tougher for this to happen to someone else,” Kilburn said.

Rep. Kerkman saw Kilburn’s story in a newspaper last year and reached out. Since then, the two have built a relationship in an effort to spark change.

“It’s changed [her life] forever,” Kerkman told CBS 58. “She’s finding her new normal. She’s back to work and obviously has her supporters, her friends and her family who support her, so I just wanted to be an advocate for her.

Having heard concerns from certain law enforcement groups, Kerkman introduced an amendment for the bill that would place equal liability to the person the OWI suspect is released to once they are released.

Kerkman said she introduced the amendment in order to have the discussion around it. Lawmakers on the committee expressed concerns however.

“There was a lot of discussion today,” Kerkman said after the public hearing. “So again, I will take the feedback I was given today and try to build support here and then have enough support to take it to the Assembly and the Senate.”

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