A Milwaukee woman remains in the Dane County Jail awaiting charges in connection with an alleged sixth offense OWI.
According to the Wisconsin State Patrol, 37-year old Julaine S. Hardt was arrested in Dane County early Sunday morning.
“A trooper located (Hardt’s) vehicle and observed multiple lane deviations,” the State Patrol said in a news release. “After stopping the vehicle, the trooper administered standard field sobriety tests on the driver. The driver was subsequently arrested.”
According to Wisconsin State Patrol troopers, Hardt previously went by the last name Ostrowski.
Online court records show Ostrowski had prior OWI convictions in Washington and Waukesha Counties.
State Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon), a longtime proponent of tougher drunk driving laws, said Hardt’s case is indicative of a broader problem.
“I’m not satisfied with where we are right now,” Ott said.
According to numbers from the Department of Transportation, 346 people statewide were convicted of sixth-offense or higher OWI’s in 2016.
In 2015, the same statistics show 382 such convictions. There were 359 of them in 2014.
The DOT said drunk driving conviction statistics for 2017 will be released later this summer.
Ott noted that Wisconsin’s drunk driving laws are not as tough as those in many other states.
Ott said Wisconsin is the only state in the country that doesn't criminalize first offense OWIs.
He added that almost 20 other states deem any 3rd offense and higher OWI convictions to be felonies.
“In Wisconsin, you don’t get a felony until the fourth offense,” Ott said.
“Many other states have more severe penalties than Wisconsin, there’s no question about that,” Ott added.
He thinks there are several ways state lawmakers can work to keep drunken drivers off Wisconsin roadways.
For starters, Ott believes the mandatory, minimum incarceration sentence for 5th and 6th OWI convictions should be raised from six months to 18 months.
In Ostrowski’s case, a 2013 OWI conviction in Waukesha County carried a sentence of 18 months in prison, as well as the installation of an ignition interlock device in her vehicle for three years.
Ott said beefing up ignition interlock requirements is another way to try and deter potential drunk drivers.
“At some point, after a certain number of convictions, then maybe it should be a lifetime interlock device,” he said.
Ott said safe ride programs and public transportation can also play a role in decreasing OWI convictions. So can alcohol treatment programs.
In Southeastern Wisconsin, anyone struggling with alcohol abuse is urged to call the free 2-1-1 number.
IMPACT 2-1-1 is a central access point for people in need. Someone struggling with alcohol abuse can call the number to be collected with treatment programs and other resources. Those options include free treatment for people who may not have the financial means to pay for it.