Though I wish they would go further and make every first-offense OWI conviction a consequential misdemeanor, I am glad to again publicize OWI reform efforts by Republican State Sen. Alberta Darling, (River Hills) and State Rep. Jim Ott:
Ott and Darling said this time they'll try to make first-time offenders with blood alcohol contents of 0.15% or more - "super drunks" - guilty of a crime; require first-time offenders to appear in court even if they're tagged with a civil violation; make a third offense a felony; and allow judges to order police to seize third-time offenders' cars. Also on tap are mandatory minimum sentences for drunken drivers involved in crashes that result in injuries or death.Here we are on New Year's Eve, traditionally a time of drinking-and-driving tragedy. Let's hope everyone gets home safely tonight - - and that legislators of both parties, along with the Governor, resolve in 2013 to find some backbone on this basic matter.
Toughening Wisconsin's weak, drunken-driving-enabling laws on behalf of safer driving and achieving better treatment for addicted drivers should be a non-partisan matter, approved by a unanimous Legislature - - regardless of the opposition of tavern and liquor lobbies .
I've campaigned on this blog repeatedly for toughened OWI laws and better alcohol treatment, and publicized OWI reform proposals by Darling, Ott and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, too:
...I will be glad to promote stronger laws proposed by Republicans State Rep. Jim Ott and State Sen. Albert Darling, and by the Milwaukee Sheriff, David Clarke, as outlined in this Journal Sentinel story.More than four years ago I had this to say:
Darling wants to make felony charges available to prosecutors more quickly for repeat Wisconsin OWI offenders, and Clarke wants Wisconsin to join all other states in criminalizing a first offense.
The reformers also want more treatment, and I'm completely on board with that, too. It's obviously a long, hard slog and sell in Wisconsin, and good ideas need support even if the pace of change is slow.
Let's make a first OWI a misdemeanor instead of a ticket, and move a second OWI from misdemeanor to felony - - and add mandatory vehicle seizure for a repeat offender, too.In 2009, I wrote:
And in 2011, when the Legislature caved to special interests, I wrote:Until Wisconsin joins the other 49 states and criminalizes a first-offense, everything else is window-dressing.Also needed: making a second offense a felony, and providing widespread drunk-driving education and treatment.
Another effort is underway to put Wisconsin in line with the other 49 states and make first-offense drunk driving more than the mere ticket it is now.
I've lost track of the number of times I have argued for this on my blog for years.
Make this a bi-partisan and non-partisan effort. Let's slam the door on the lobbyists, get drunk drivers off the roads, protect the public and help problem drinkers repair their lives.