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Republican bill would criminalize first-time drunken driving in Wisconsin

Posted at 2:47 PM, Jan 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-03 23:30:25-05

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two Republican legislators have introduced a bill that would make first-time drunken driving a crime in Wisconsin.

Rep. Jim Ott and Sen. Alberta Darling began circulating the proposal for co-sponsors on Thursday. Wisconsin is the only state where first-offense drunken driving is a civil violation and not a crime.

"This would be a toughening of our law and show that we take drunk driving more seriously," Ott told TODAY'S TMJ4.

Ott and Darling's bill would make a first-time offense a misdemeanor punishable by up to $500 in fines and 30 days in jail. If the driver doesn't offend again for a five-year period, the conviction would revert to a civil violation.

"So somebody that made a mistake and changed their behavior, never did anything wrong again, they are not going to be saddled with a criminal offense on their record for the rest of their life," Ott said.

Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers said Wednesday he wants to criminalize first-offense drunken driving as a deterrent. Evers made the remarks after a suspected drunken driver struck and killed a firefighter who had stopped to help a driver who had lost control of her vehicle during a snowstorm in Madison on New Year's Eve.