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State Legislators Aim to Strengthen OWI Laws

Two Republican lawmakers say they want to make sure drunk drivers are getting the prison time they deserve.

One of the proposed bills would make sure that a drunk driver spends at least five years in prison if convicted of killing someone on the road.

State Representative Jim Ott (R-Mequon) said, "We heard from family members where someone got as little as a year or two incarceration for killing someone."

               

Ott's bill would make sure judges are sending drunk drivers, who kill someone, to prison for at least five years.

               

Ott said, "I think most of the time judges do sentence appropriately in homicide OWI, but there's these cases that are just a red flag."

The influential Tavern League of Wisconsin supports the bill, and two others Ott is proposing along with State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).

               

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is also in favor of the work that the legislators are doing.

MADD Director of State Government Affairs, Frank Harris, said, "This Representative Ott and Senator Darling proposal is very much needed. It's a victim rights, common sense proposal to address the deadly epidemic of drunk driving."

One of the other bills goes after people caught driving drunk for a fifth and sixth time, tripling the current six-month minimum sentence.

Another bill closes what Ott calls the “interlock loophole”, it will punish offenders caught driving without a court-ordered breathalyzer system.

Right now, people aren't punished for that until their license is re-instated.

Ott said, "You should be able to go out on the road and go to the grocery store, or drive to work, or go to church and not have to worry about somebody crossing the center line and smacking into you."

Wisconsin remains the only state in the country where first-offense OWI is not criminal.

Ott says that needs to be addressed, but that's not part of the bills being introduced this session.

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