January 28, 2009

Lehman joins proposal targeting drunk drivers

Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, and two other senators are proposing a "multifaceted, commonsense legislative approach" that targets "drunk drivers on numerous fronts to protect Wisconsin citizens.

Under the proposal, thousands of repeat offenders would be in jail or prison instead of behind the wheel. The legislation promotes prevention and includes statewide expansion of the successful Winnebago County “Safe Streets” pilot program, which directs some offenders into alcohol treatment programs. The proposal also expands the use of Ignition Interlock Devices (IID), one of the tools that government has to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.

“There is broad agreement on the importance of revisiting our laws on drinking and driving. This bill takes a comprehensive approach to meet our shared goal of making Wisconsin roadways safer and provides a good means to enact needed changes,” said Lehman.

The proposed legislation would:
  • Make the third OWI offense within five years a felony
  • Make all fourth OWI offenses a felony
  • Close the 1st offense .08 fine loophole
  • Expand Winnebago County’s successful “Safe Street” pilot program
  • Require the Judicial Council to develop statewide sentencing guidelines for OWI offenses
  • Mandate Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs) or immobilization if second OWI offense is .16 or
  • above and for all third offenses
  • Prohibit IID contractors from cancelling an IID contract without an order from the court and provides penalties.
The other two senators are Jim Sullivan, D-Wauwatosa, and Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee.

Last session, Sen. Sullivan passed legislation that provided incremental penalties for drunk drivers. This package further strengthens the tools and options available to Wisconsin’s law enforcement and court systems, the release said.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but what about that first OWI conviction? And the second OWI conviction? And the third OWI conviction regardless of the time frame? There's still too damn much coddling of drunk drivers, as the recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series graphically showed.


  1. Are those your comments at the end Pete?

  2. I completely agree. Did you read AG Van Hollen's editorial on tougher drunk driving laws on JSonline.com two weeks ago? Apparently, our top cop doesn't think driving while drunk or drugged should be a crime because he knows people who have done it or does it, and he doesn't think they should be tagged with a criminal record. Makes perfect sense, hey? Maybe he should ask those people who have been injured by a first time drunk driver or the families of those killed by a first time drunk driver to see if they agree. I'm surprised more people in the blogging world didn't jump on what the AG said.

    This new bill is not tough enough and everyone should contact their representatives and tell them to do more, IMO.

  3. Please correct me if I’m wrong here. The state of Wisconsin use to be 0.10 for the limit. Now it is 0.08, wasn’t this changed because the Federal Government said the state would loose some funding if they didn’t drop it?

    If you look at the chart Alcohol Limits by States, every state in the union is 0.08. We bitch about the law isn’t tough enough, looking at the chart Wisconsin is right up there with penalties compared to many other states.

    Do not get me wrong, I do not condone drunk driving, but I do believe it can happen to many people just because of the 0.08 limit. In addition, I believe the majority of the first offenders really do change how they control what they have to drink when they are out whether it is social or family dinner.

    I personally do no believe the 1st offender should be “raked over the coals” as happens today. Second and up...hell yes.

  4. SER 10:33. I have no idea what you mean by this: "I personally do no believe the 1st offender should be “raked over the coals” as happens today."

    The problem with Wisconsin law is that first-offense drunk driving is not a crime at all, not even a misdemeanor. It's just a municipal offense, a traffic citation, with no mandatory jail time at all -- not even 24 hours!

  5. Hey Pete 10:54pm

    I should have been more specific about being raked over the coals. Financially wise it can be very expensive on a first offence.

    I could possibly see a misdemeanor. In addition, the amount of alcohol blood level should be taken into account. I know a person who was recently arrested. This person was, .082, it will cost over $1500.00 buy the time everything is finished, schooling, fines, etc.

    Now if the level was .18 (something like that) fines etc should be higher. When it’s that high you know your out partying and should not be driving. But still a misdemeanor.

  6. SER's comment illustrates the typical mentality of those opposed to tougher drunk driving laws. It makes no sense to me.

    SER why was your friend stopped? How did the coppers know he/she was drunk? Could it be because they were driving recklessly...maybe crossing the center line or committing some other traffic violation? Your friend should consider themselves LUCKY the only thing he/she has to do is pay a fine. Hopefully, this person you know learned his/her lesson, and won't put MY family in danger by driving drunk...again.

  7. Anonymous 10:36PM

    I am not against tougher laws; I am questioning the 1st offence only. When you get to 3, I personally feel their vehicle should be impounded also, whether it belongs to them or if it is a family or friends vehicle.

    You questioned why was my friend stopped. How did the coppers know he/she was drunk? Could it be because they were driving recklessly...maybe crossing the center line or committing some other traffic violation?

    The cop did not know the driver was drunk. A Wisconsin State Patrol officer stopped the individual on Ohio Street for a burned out tail light. No driving recklessly, crossing the centerline or committing some other traffic violation? How’s that for a grab in the butt? Oh...no ticket was issued for the burnt out light!

    What would you do with this guy? Man Gets 2.5 Years for 9th OWI. This articale is posted on TMJ-4’s web site.

    I think they should take people like this and put them on Alcatraz, give them all the alcohol they want and let them drink themselves to death.