State Assembly passes bills to toughen drunk driving penalties

NOW: State Assembly passes bills to toughen drunk driving penalties


MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Wisconsin legislature took a step toward implementing stricter drunk driving laws Thursday.

Two bills were passed in the state Assembly, both authored by Rep. Jim Ott, (R) Mequon.

One of the bills proposes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for homicide OWI. Currently, there is no minimum.

"I've come across enough cases where someone only got one or two years incarceration for killing someone, and in one case, only 11 months for homicidal OWI," Ott said.

The other proposes that first-time OWI offenders be required to appear in court, and that first-time OWI offenses stay on a person's record after 10 years.

As it stands now, a driver could commit a second OWI more than 10 years after the first, and have it "count" as the first.

Despite bipartisan support for these bills, there still hasn't been enough support to pass a bill criminalizing first-time OWI.

Wisconsin is the only state in the country to treat the offense like a speeding ticket.

"I don't want to fill up our jails with people who made a simple mistake the first time," said Speaker Robin Vos, (R) Rochester. "But I also want to make sure if you do it a second time, there's a severe penalty you should pay."

Ott says his goal is to end drunk driving altogether, and that he will continue to patiently make progress.

"We passed two bills today, and that's a lot better than passing no bills," he said.

A Senate vote on the legislation would likely take place in the fall.

If they pass, Governor Tony Evers would have the opportunity to sign the bills into law.

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