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First-time OWI offenders would get second chance at clean record under new Wisconsin proposal

Posted at 5:51 PM, May 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-13 19:13:38-04

First-time drunk driving offenders would get a second chance at a clean record under a new proposal in Wisconsin. It would allow first time OWI offenders whose blood alcohol content was below .15 B.A.C. to voluntarily install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle for 6 months. If they don't have any other incidents, their OWI comes off their public record.

When one in ten people in the state have an OWI, it's hard to find someone who hasn't been impacted by drunk driving.

"We've got too many people on the roads thinking it's not going to happen to me," said Marlene Ridgeway of Milwaukee.

Wisconsin DOT records show more than 450,000 Wisconsin drivers have a least 1 OWI conviction, but a new proposed law would help offenders help themselves by allowing them to have their OWI expunged from public record.

Senator Chris Larson said the voluntary ignition interlock idea came from a nationwide push by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"The hope is that there is no recidivism, that people end up having those 6 months to realize there's a consequence, they don't want to repeat this," Larson said.

Currently, first offenders who blow above .15 B.A.C. in Wisconsin automatically have to install a car breathalizer. This proposal would offer an incentive to those who blew below .15, but still above the legal limit of .08.

"Once it stops beeping, it's going to say that it's analyzing your sample, Beep - if it says pass you're free to turn your car on."

Ridgeway not only thinks it would help first offenders have an easier time finding employement -- she believes it would also make the roads safer.

This law proposal pertains only to OWIs that do not involve fatal or injury-related crashes.