In the state of Wisconsin, if your record is clean, you can technically be arrested for drunk driving four times in one night, and not face a criminal charge.
A loophole in the law allows offenders to avoid repeat charges based on the type of vehicle they are caught on. Recreational vehicles like boats, ATVs and UTVs as well as snowmobiles are all classified separately under Wisconsin OWI law.
It means you can technically get four first time OWIs. Because a first time OWI is not a criminal offense, all four offenses would result in essentially four traffic tickets.
“This is certainly one of the more absurd situations where you can literally have a drunk driving offense across four or five different types of vehicles and still never have a repeat offense,” said state Sen. Andre Jacque (R-DePere).
Conservation officers with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources like Warden Mitch Groenier have seen drunk drivers pulled over multiple times in one night on two different vehicles.
“They both are considered not criminal for a boat, a snowmobile, and ATVs are all separate fines,” Groenier said.
Jacque is trying to close the loophole in Madison with legislation. He plans to author a bill to loop all the classifications together under OWI law.
However, similar proposals have failed in the past. Jacque says special interests and a culture of drinking in Wisconsin have blocked the bills from reaching the governor’s desk.
“Unfortunately it seems like it takes these catastrophic tragedies where people start to think for a while about do we need to make some changes and then that cause for action kind of fades over time,” he said.
Still Jacque is pushing for the bill this session. It has not yet been assigned, but he plans on drafting it in the Senate soon.