Lawmakers disagree on consequences of OWI 1st offense

A number of Wisconsin Republicans are hoping new Democratic Governor Tony Evers will help them finally criminalize first-offense drunk driving. State Representative Jim Ott and Senator Alberta Darling — have introduced a bill that would make a first offense a misdemeanor. Evers says he supports criminalizing a first offense. One of the top Republicans in the state senate says a tougher OWI law could ruin people’s lives.  Senator Van Wanggaard told Fox 6 over the weekend that a plan to make a first time OWI a crime could ruin someone’s future.  Wanggaard said an OWI is a poor choice.  He didn’t respond to numbers from the Department of Transportation that showed nearly 200 people died and 29 hundred others were hurt in OWI wrecks in 2015 alone. 

Wisconsin is the only state in the nation that doesn’t treat a first offense as a crime. Instead it’s a traffic ticket. Republican leaders wary of crossing the state’s powerful tavern league and saddling first offenders with a criminal record say the plan is a non-starter.