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Bill for longer jail time for repeat OWI offenders heads to Gov. Evers

Posted at 6:18 AM, Feb 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-12 07:18:25-05

MADISON, Wis. — Tougher penalties for driving drunk in Wisconsin have passed the State Assembly. One of the bills is now heading to Gov. Tony Evers' desk to possibly become law.

Wisconsin drunk driving
Wisconsin heads into the deadliest months for drunk driving. (File photo)

Lawmakers in Madison were in session until nearly 10 p.m. Tuesday tackling a variety of bills. The Assembly approved a measure that would give tougher sentences for people convicted of a 5th or 6th time operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated offense. It would make 18 months a mandatory minimum sentence.

”My effort is not to see more people incarcerated but to see safer roads,” said Rep.Jim Ott of Mequon, who helped propose the bill.

Earlier that day, the Assembly unanimously approved Assembly Bill 379. It now goes to the Senate. The bill gives more time to prosecute a first, second or third OWI.

"Sometimes a person has an OWI in another state and it’s not noticed here in Wisconsin and they get another one in Wisconsin," said Rep. Ott. "Well, you can’t charge the one in Wisconsin as a second offense OWI until you find out about the first offense in another state. This simply would give prosecutors more time."

Despite these votes, lawmakers said there is still a lot of work to be done in Wisconsin to get drunk drivers off the roads.

“What we haven’t tackled is what the evidence suggests we need to do to really reduce drunk driving, and that’s make it harder to get away with that crime,” said Rep. Evan Goyke of Milwaukee.

In a procedural move both bills go to the Senate first. The measure for harsher penalties for 5th and 6th OWI offenders will then go to the governor’s desk.

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