Believe it or not, Wisconsin has not yet criminalized drunk driving, otherwise called “operating while intoxicated” (OWI) in that state.
Currently, first-time OWI offenders are only issued a municipal citation rather than face criminal charges. It is also the only state to treat drunk driving this way. Every other state, including California, treats a first-time DUI (OWI) as a crime.
As a civil, non-criminal case, an OWI in Wisconsin carries a fine of $150 to $300 and a six to nine-month license suspension, but no jail time.
That may soon change as Wisconsin recently introduced a bill that would criminalize first-offense drunk driving.
Under the bill, introduced by State Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, first-time drunken driving offenders would be fined up to $300 or receive 5 days in jail
“First offenders are no less dangerous than repeat offenders,” Richards said in a statement. “In fact, a majority of drunken driving injuries and deaths involve drivers who had no previous convictions.”
The proposed legislation comes after pressure from MADD which issued a report calling for the need to stiffen OWI laws in Wisconsin. “The report is a blueprint for the elimination of drunk driving,” MADD National President Jan Withers said. “Families in Wisconsin deserve to be protected from drunk drivers, and MADD calls on the legislature to take action to stop drunk driving.”
The bill also seeks to establish mandatory minimum sentences for drivers who cause bodily harm or kill someone while driving intoxicated and allow for the confiscation of a driver’s vehicle after a third offense.