Drunk Driving Legislation
OWI bills head to the Governor's Desk
Wisconsin has a reputation for drinking. Whether it is considered part of our culture, heritage or tradition, excessive drinking has plagued our state for generations. A consequence of having a drinking culture is drunk driving. Drunk driving is a problem that is attempted to be solved each legislative session, through a number of different proposals. This session is no different. I have co-authored several pieces of legislation aimed at addressing the drunk driving epidemic. Two of those bills, Senate Bill 135 and Senate Bill 310 both recently passed the Senate unanimously.
Senate Bill 135
- This bill requires DOT to permanently revoke the operating privilege of a person who meets either of the following requirements: 1) The person has committed four or more OWI offenses; or 2) The person has committed two or more OWI offenses and has two or more “qualifying convictions." A qualifying conviction is 1) a conviction for certain homicides that involve the use of a motor vehicle or; 2) a conviction for certain felonies involving the use of a motor vehicle. SB 135 passed the Senate unanimously and currently awaits action in the Assembly.
Senate Bill 310
- Under current law, the penalties for causing death and causing great bodily harm while operating a motor vehicle with a revoked license are dependent on whether or not an individual knew their license had been revoked. Those penalties are higher if a person knowingly operated their vehicle while their license was revoked. This bill corrects this issue by expressly removing knowledge as an element of the crime of operating while revoked. The new language mirrors the knowledge element in crime of operating while suspended, and the penalties for both remain unchanged. I'm happy to say, this bill is headed to the Governor's desk.
Another drunk driving bill that I support is also headed to the Governor's desk for signature, Assembly Bill 98
, which would allow the court to specify the date an ignition interlock device must be installed for a person who's operating privilege is restricted.
People who choose to drink and drive jeopardize the lives of everyone on the road. While the Legislature can take steps to create more stringent drunk driving laws, those laws are only a part of the solution. Laws are only effective for those who choose to follow them and make responsible decisions. With the holidays and celebrations upon us, there undoubtedly will be more drunk drivers on the road. Please be careful, so that this holiday season continues to be a happy one.