New Wisconsin OWI Bill Hits Roadblock

owi law

Wisconsin lawmakers have hit the brakes on pursing new legislation that would increase criminal penalties for first time drunk driving offenders in Wisconsin. The proposed bills would add significant criminal penalties for Wisconsin drunk driving offenders. Jessa Nicholson discussed these new OWI bills in depth last month in this blog post. Now it appears that the proposed bill to make OWI-first offenses criminals is losing steam–and with good reason.

Criminalizing First-time OWI Offenses is not the Solution

Individuals who are charged with a first offense OWI already face significant penalties, including:

  • Fines that can exceed $1000
  • Loss of driving privileges for up to 12 months
  • The possibility that they will be required to use an ignition interlock device once their license is reinstated

There is no data to suggest that adding the possibility of a short jail sentence to the list of penalties would decrease the number of first time OWI offenders.  In fact, the vast majority of individuals charged with a first-offense OWI that I deal with are shocked when I inform them that they are not actually being charged with a crime.

Unintended Costs for Wisconsin Taxpayers

More importantly, there would be many unintended costs borne by the public should this legislation become law.  Not only will tax payers foot the bill for all of the extra nights in jail that will result from this change in legislation, but the increase in first-time OWI offenders who will require state or county appointed (and funded) lawyers will only further stress the already under-funded public defender appointment system. “Tough on crime” legislation is politically expedient.   But it is good to see that lawmakers are looking beyond their own political gain to actually examine the cost/benefit analysis of criminalizing first offense OWI charges.  Hopefully, they will realize the theoretical bang in deterrence is not worth the all too certain bucks that it will cost taxpayers.     Source: http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/Bill-to-toughen-drunk-driving-penalties-hits-setback-224172891.html