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New OWI law goes into effect for Wisconsin

Posted at 10:32 PM, Jan 02, 2017

WISCONSIN--A new law makes the penalties for drunk drivers harsher in Wisconsin, but one Milwaukee woman who lost a husband to a drunk driver is upset with these new regulations.

Paula Patoka fights back tears as she reads the new penalties that took effect January 1, 2017, for repeat OWI offenders.

"It made me angry," said Patoka as she gestured to her print out of the new law.

Patoka's husband, Roger Patoka, was killed in August 2015 by a man who had been released from jail for his 4th OWI. Police say Tony Garvey crossed over the center line, striking Roger on his motorcycle before plowing into Paula and their kids who had been following in their own car.

"He had just gotten out of prison for his 4th offense of drunk driving. He was suppose to be spending 15 months and he spent 9 months," said Patoka.

A new law might have kept Garvey in prison longer. He died in the crash as well.

Representative Jim Ott (R-Mequon) helped sponsor the law that makes the 4th drunk driving offense an automatic felony. It also increases the time in jail for a 4th OWI, along with 5th and 6th OWI offenses.

"I would like this to be a deterrent so that there's less drunk driving because people realize the penalities are getting more severe," said Ott.

But Patoka she says the state is too easy on drunk drivers. She is upset the first offense in Wisconsin is just a ticket when all other states consider it a criminal offense. 

"What's wrong with our state that the other 49 states got but we don't have it," said Patoka, shaking her head as she wipes away tears. "Aren't there enough dead people? Haven't there been enough people killed to know that we are doing something wrong?"

Ott says he is working on a couple new laws to increase the minimum time someone has to spend in jail for a felony OWI and harsher penalties for homicide OWIs.