Tougher Penalties For OWI Offenses Part Of Governor’s Proposed Budget

(Beaver Dam) State Representative Mark Born says tougher penalties for repeat drunk drivers will likely be a topic of discussion during the current legislative session. The Beaver Dam Republican adds that the matter has routinely come up in past cycles with legislators signing off on increased penalties which has led to more people in prisons.

“Which of course is extremely costly to the state…very expensive to incarcerate people…to put people in prison for what’s really just a drinking problem,” says Born. “But the dangers of it is just too much to not do that. We have been part of the reason for our more recent over crowding in some of our prisons…has been those changes to those OWI laws. Adding a lot of people to prison at fourth, and fifth, and sixth, and higher offenses.”

Born says he is still concerned over people that have been charged with a seventh or higher OWI offense, signaling that current punishments may not always work.

“How can you get tougher than putting people in prison,” says Born. “I think its fourth [offense] now that triggers the felony and that requires a year-and-a-half in prison. Obviously that didn’t stop these folks because they got a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth, and a seventh [offense].”

In the governor’s proposed budget anyone cited or convicted of drunk driving will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. Even for first offenses. Born called that a “pretty big jump” and adds that there should not be an overreaction.

“There are certainly people that get a first offense and never ever get close to getting a second offense cause it’s a very expensive and very dangerous and quite a life-changing learning experience for them,” says Born. “I don’t want to overreact on that either.”

Tony Evers’ budget is now in the hands of the Joint Finance Committee, which Born is co-chair. He says their goal is to have the budget ready by July 1st, which is when the new fiscal year starts.