Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wisconsin Continues To Send Mixed Message On Drunk Driving

Law enforcement officials know that first-time (as in finally-caught) drunk drivers are the largest category of arrested OWI offenders, but the state has recently ramped up the penalties for those arrested a 7th, 8th, and 9th time.

It's good to protect innocent people on the road by throwing the book at habitual offenders.

They are a menace.

But Wisconsin still gives many offenders a pass by treating their eventual, and predicatable first arrest with a ticket, not with a criminal charge.

Would we treat discharging a firearm into a crowd as a civil offense, with a ticket, and only criminalize the behavior if it happened again?

What's the difference?

In the hands of a motorist driving while intoxicated, an automobile or truck is a deadly weapon aimed, with speed and force, at unsuspecting people.

With a weak first-offenders' law, Wisconsin enables drunk drivers to put the public at major risk, with only a civil penalties - - a citation, alcohol dependency assessment and license revocation - - as the consequences when and if they get caught.

A first DWI should be criminalized.

That means mandatory jail time, a whopping fine and a lengthy license suspension - - at least a year.

Anything less doesn't get offenders' full attention or produce a lasting impact.

An accident caused by a drunk driver, first-time or otherwise, absolutely has lasting impact.


Unknown said...

The real problem is a .08 limit is way too low. Bump it up to .12 and you'll have a lot less people getting arrested. You aren't really that intoxicated at .08 anyways. I guarantee on a typical Saturday night at least a quarter of the drivers on the road are over .08

I encourage harsh penalties for drivers caught 3x over .12

James Rowen said...

Brad: You are completely wrong about .08 not being "really that intoxicated." The idea is to be not intoxicated at all behind the wheel.

Any intoxication by a motorist is dangerous, selfish, and needs to be dealt with severely.

Unknown said...

Statistically speaking drivers who have only one alcoholic drink in them are safer than sober drivers, so technically you are wrong that it's selfish to drive in any kind of "intoxicated" state.

.08 is of course more than 1 drink though. The problem with that number is you can still feel relatively sober and drive just fine.

The thing is we are all different people and some people can handle their alcohol much better than others. I personally wouldn't drive after 2 drinks because I'm a bit of a light weight. I do understand the math behind this, but I have seen two people blow the same number and one of them was acting like they were in much worse condition than the other.

I would say that drivers blowing between a .08 to .12 should be given a ticket if they actually cause some kind of accident. They don't deserve a ticket when they get pulled over by some cop on a power trip for going 5 over and then breathalizing them because they "smell" alcohol.

Don't forget that drivers on cell phones are just as statistically dangerous as drunk drivers yet we don't prosecute them.