Darling Testifies for Tougher OWI Laws
This week, I testified in favor of three bills I'm working on with Representative Jim Ott to curb drunk driving in our state.
Getting behind the wheel and driving while intoxicated is a serious problem we face in Wisconsin. According to statistics provided by the Department of Transportation, in 2015 alone we had almost 24,000 OWI convictions. In the past, I have worked to address this chronic abuse of driving while intoxicated by working on legislation to provide harsher penalties, while also expanding access to treatment for these individuals. Due to some of these measures, the state of Wisconsin has continued to see a decrease in overall OWI convictions.
Unfortunately, there are instances where an individual's irresponsible act of driving drunk kills someone. In some of these cases, the driver is only incarcerated for two or three years. Senate Bill 73 creates a mandatory minimum of five years for these instances. When someone takes the life of another, they must be given a sentence that provides justice for the family members who have lost a loved one.
Even though we have seen a decrease in overall OWI convictions in the past few years, one group of individuals that has seen an increase in convictions is 5th and 6th OWI offenders. Currently, OWI offenders in this category are at minimum required to be incarcerated for six months. It is my hope that Senate Bill 72 will deter individuals from getting behind the wheel intoxicated by increasing the mandatory minimum to 18 months in prison. With the expansion of treatment and diversion programs and other alternatives, it is my hope that Senate Bill 72 will never have to be used.
Assembly Bill 98, closes a loophole in the state's ignition interlock law. Currently, first-time OWI offenders whose blood alcohol concentration is 0.15 or higher, and all repeat OWI offenders are required to install an ignition interlock on an automobile registered to them. The law requires that the interlock device is in place on the automobile at the time the driver's license is reinstated and must remain on the automobile until the order expires.
However, there is a loophole in current law. Some OWI offenders break the law by driving before their license is reinstated. If this occurs and they are subject to a traffic stop, they will be cited for driving without a valid license, but will not face the more serious offense of violating the court order concerning the ignition interlock. This bill will close the loophole, and the individual will now be cited for driving without the ignition interlock.