Wisconsin Bill Would Make A First Time OWI A Crime

On behalf of Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C.

Wisconsin is the only state in the country where a first-time drunk driving charge is a civil violation and not a criminal offense, but two Wisconsin lawmakers are proposing to change this.

In early January, Representative Jim Ott and Senator Alberta Darling introduced a bill to the Wisconsin legislature to make a first time OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) offense a misdemeanor. This charge would result in a $500 fine and 30 days in jail when convicted. The current penalties for a first time OWI are a suspended driver’s license for six to nine months and a fine of up to $350, but no jail time.

Drunk driver kills firefighter

On New Year’s Eve, a good Samaritan and off-dutyfirefighter,was killed on the eastbound Beltline near Madison after stopping to help a driver who had lost control of her vehicle in a snowstorm. The firefighter was Lake Mills Fire Captain Christopher Truman, who was struck and killed when a third driver crashed into them. The driver of the first vehicle, as well as a passenger in that car, were also injured in the second crash, but not seriously. The third driver was later arrested and charged with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

In recent comments regarding this crash, new Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers supported this proposed legislation. He believes that creating stricter penalties for a first time OWI would help to decrease the occurrence of drunk driving.