Monday, March 30, 2009

Many Countries Have Tougher OWI Standards Than Wisconsin's 0.08

Peruse this worldwide listing of OWI standards and note that 0.05 BAC is a pretty common standard for operating while intoxicated.

And what happened to that big crackdown the legislature was going to approve after some high-profile fatal OWI wrecks last year?

So far, nothing, and the stories about repeat offenders and OWI homicides keep pouring in.

For the record: in Wisconsin, you need five OWI convictions before you are looking at felony punishment, and we are alone in the country treating a first offense as a non-criminal ticketing-only offense.

While first offenders have to pay a fine and deal with some troublesome financial and administrative hassles, Wisconsin law coddles first-time-caught drunk drivers with inadequate penalties, education and treatment requirements - - an enabling, official tap on the wrist that makes repeat offending more likely.

The result: an endangered motoring public, and ridiculously high death toll. 42% of all fatal car crashes in Wisconsin are alcohol-related.

Here is one Wisconsin website dedicated to OWI legal reforms, in memory of Jennifer Bukosky, one of the state's most high-profile victims.

Bukosky, her daughter, and unborn child were killed in a Waukesha County crash last spring by a repeat offender, allegedly high on drugs, who was out on bail awaiting incarceration for a previous OWI conviction.


Anonymous said...

I could tell you that it is quite apparent that too many legislators are off in too many directions on this, in large part, thanks to the Journal coverage.

A bunch of people want to get the press, but they are not working together.

If this doesn't change and quickly, you will see every one of these bills die and nothing will change.

James Rowen said...

To Anon: I am not understanding the points you are making about the Journal coverage and the press.

Anonymous said...

Whereas I do not support impaired driving, the law as currently written is a vague conflagration of unclear & conflicting doctrine. Simply put, it is too easy for an officer to 'conclude' that someone is impaired, detain them, forcibly obtain blood & arrest them. Or rather, there is no punishment for doing the above to someone not impaired. Making penalties greater is acceptable as long as you place additional burdens on the arresting agency & the state. Let me first point out that under WI law, there must be probable cause for the initial detention or traffic stop. The reason cannot be for momentarily crossing a lane marker or divider but that is routinely cited & accepted. The FSTs (field sobriety tests) are known to be unreliable. In fact, the NHTS & AMA have concluded that all the physical tests are designed so that a majority of people would fail at least one regardless of impairment level. Hence they are inadmissible in court (for the most part & can be refused). Under the implied consent statute, anyone driving automatically consents to giving blood-breath-urine if asked as driving is a 'privilege' granted to the citizen by the state. But, the driver is asked whether or not he will consent to such a test. Refusal to consent is a separately punishable offense BUT in reality, the driver cannot refuse because the law allows the arresting agency to FORCIBLY administer a blood draw warrantless against the 4th Amendment under the 'exigent circumstances' exception. But the statute states that the blood test (test of choice by arresting agencies because it provides a lasting bit of evidence & it is the MOST intrusive & humanly degrading) can be given up to 3 hours after the arrest and interpreted by a professional to establish how much degradation or increase in level occurred over time. This, in itself, would preclude any exigency and require a warrant yet it does not. Since your consent or refusal to such tests has no bearing on whether or not the test is conducted, your choice is not relevant as it is nullified by law. How can you then be charged for what is actually having an opinion rather than having a choice? Yet you can. There is no 'reasonable' objection to any test other than physical such as hemophelia. Fear of needles, religious beliefs, fear of disease are not 'reasonable' objections according to case law. Moreover, the arresting agency & the administering tester are immune form civil prosecution even if by some accident HIV was contracted. Therefore, every OWI stop results in a blood test, forcibly or otherwise, without a warrant even though the law specifically states that a warrant shall be required unless exigent circumstances exist (also remember the 3 hour time - it only takes minutes to get a warrant from a judge on the phone). In other words, the state routinely suspends the 4th amendment burden for convenience & PUNISHES the citizen for objecting to such a suspension of the 4th Amendment. In fact, even if the driver requests a test other than the blood test, it can be considered a refusal. The Supreme Court of WI cavalierly stated that the 'only way that a citizen could avoid a blood test was not to drive impaired'. However, there is no punishment for forcibly administering a blood test to a citizen that results in negative alcohol or substance! Raising the bar for punishment is fine but we must also raise the bar for retribution when Constitutional guarantees are improperly violated. The law also must be clarified removing capricious 'rights of consent' that are merely strawmen to pad other cri9minal & civil charges. Finally, exigent circumstances must be clearly defined or the statute re-written to exclude a permissable time that precludes ANY & ALL exigency. Anytime we seek to suspend Constitutional protections we should proceed with great caution & concern.