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Finally some progress on toughening Wisconsin’s OWI laws

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They have hardly reached the finish line, but at least they have left the starting gate. A handful of Wisconsin lawmakers have spent the past ten years pushing for tougher drunk driving laws in the state. Each time, Rep. Jim Ott has come up empty-handed. But finally, two bills cracking down on those who get behind the wheel after one too many have been endorsed by lawmakers. One bill which passed the Assembly would make anyone who kills someone while driving drunk have to spend a minimum of five years in prison. Under current Wisconsin law, there is no minimum penalty for killing someone while drunk behind the wheel. Just last week, we witnessed the tragic death of a Milwaukee police officer, Kou Her, who was killed by a repeat drunk driver who ran a red light and crashed into Her’s car. Shouldn’t someone found guilty of such a tragic and preventable crime have to do at least five years? Another bill to pass the Assembly requires a first-time drunk driving offender to appear in court to face a judge. No more simply mailing in a fine, or sending legal representation. These bills have a long way to go to become law, as the Senate may not consider them until the fall. But it is a first step. Significant, even if it took ten years to make only these minor changes in Wisconsin’s OWI laws.

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    Colleen LeBlanc

    June 24, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    I understand the frustration and the anger when an innocent person is killed by a drunk driver but not all cases are the same. I fear any ‘absolute’ sentences as each case is different. Some deserve more, some less. You have to look at who it benefits and who it hurts because what you are talking about is purely punishment, not rehabilitation. There are so many angles to this that one set minimum prison term will likely cause more harm then good. The case you site is on upper end of needing punishment. If it was a 1st OWI and driver’s beloved spouse killed in passenger seat, would 5 years be cruel to him and his children? There are too many variables to have ‘one size fits all’.
    In most counties in the state, you must appear for 1st OWI so this would make it uniform and a good idea. All SHOULD appear.

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