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Gov. Evers expected to sign another OWI bill before session closes

Sendoff ceremony for deploying Wisconsin Army National Guard battalion
Posted at 7:38 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 12:02:49-05

Gov. Tony Evers is expected to sign legislation Friday aimed at curbing repeat drunk driving.

The bill would create a mandatory minimum sentence of 18 months for fifth and sixth OWI offenders. It was one of several bills we've been following as part of our Project Drive Sober initiative.

Families who have lost loved ones to drunk and drugged driving have endlessly fought for change in our Capitol.

They've poured out their hearts over and over to lawmakers, pleading them to pass tougher OWI laws in Wisconsin.

Atop their list has been criminalizing first offense OWI in Wisconsin.

Project: Drive Sober -- One Year Later

A bill introduced this session would make your first offense a misdemeanor with up to 30 days in jail.

Lawmakers gave the bill a public hearing last September in a Senate committee, but they pulled it from the agenda when that committee reconvened.

Other OWI bills have had some success this session.

In November, Evers signed a bill creating a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison if you kill someone in an OWI crash.

Gov. Evers signs mandatory five-year sentence bill for OWIs involving homicides

That bill, along with the fifth and sixth mandatory minimum proposal both allow judges to sentence a lesser penalty if they go on the record as to why.

Other proposals we've been following have stalled in the Capitol.

One bill would increase penalties for drunk drivers who don't comply with court orders to install ignition interlock devices in their cars.

An I-TEAM investigation found only 64 percent of drivers ordered to have the device actually comply. Current law imposes a maximum fine of $200 for driving without an ordered IID. Under the bill, it would increase the penalty to up to six months in jail.

Ignition Interlock Device Compliance

That legislation passed the Senate, but stalled in the Assembly.

Another plan would require first time OWI offenders to appear before a judge.

That cleared the Assembly and received unanimous support in a Senate committee. If the Senate is able to pass it on the floor before the deadline that could head to the governor's desk this session.

A loop hole that allows for five first time OWI offenses was also addressed in the Legislature this year, but that bill has fallen short.

Currently you could get OWIs on a boat, ATV, off road motorcycle, snow mobile and your car, and all five would count as first offenses.

A plan to correct that received committee approval, but never cleared the full Senate.

Lawmakers have until March 26 to approve the remaining bills. If they do, Evers has until May 27 to sign them.

Supporters of these bills say the more attention they get from the public, the more likely they are to succeed.

If you want your voice heard on any or all of these proposals, pick up the phone and contact your lawmaker.

To find out who your lawmaker is, and how to contact them, click here.