Is Wisconsin on the Way to Tougher Drunk Driving Laws – Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

Wisconsin state legislators are trying to change a pair of laws that affect people who are pulled over for drunk driving across the state. Currently, a few bills are making their way through the legislature to toughen up the penalties for drinking and driving – including one that would criminalize a first OWI rather than treating it as a traffic violation.

What Are the Drunk Driving Laws Now?

Currently, if you’re pulled over for OWI and have no prior offenses, police can treat it as a traffic violation. After an arrest for OWI, the police can take you into custody for 12 hours or release you to a “responsible adult.”

What Legislators Want to See for Wisconsin Drunk Driving Laws in the Future

The bills working their way through legislative committees right now would turn a first OWI offense into a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a $500 fine, 30 days in jail, or a combination of the two penalties. They also call for people to be held in jail until their BAC is 0.04 – half the legal limit of 0.08 – and requiring offenders to appear in court if they’re accused of first-time OWI.

These types of laws have been proposed before, but now several lawmakers are supporting the change – including Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon), Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), and democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

“I think we have to do something different and I’m looking forward to (Ott’s) bill,” Evers said at a Milwaukee Press Club event last month. “We can’t afford to lose lives because of drunk driving in Wisconsin. I’m committed to doing something. Rep. Ott seems to be moving in the right direction to get the support he needs. I support his honest work on this issue and I hope to be able to help him out.”

Wisconsin is alone in the fact that it doesn’t criminalize a first-offense OWI.

What if You’re Accused of OWI?

If you’re accused of drinking and driving, call us at 414-383-6700. Our experienced Milwaukee OWI lawyers may be able to help you, and we’ll answer all your questions during your free OWI case review.

Carlos Gamino