Wisconsin Democrats Promise Crackdown on Drunken-Drivers

By | September 17, 2009

Democrats who control the Wisconsin Legislature promise to focus on cracking down on drunken driving this fall, among other priorities.

The state Senate began its fall session Tuesday and the Assembly starts Wednesday. The session is scheduled to last into early November. Much of what Assembly Democrats outlined as their priorities on Tuesday included proposals that won’t cost much, or any, money to implement. Many of the ideas, like toughening drunken driving laws, are likely to pass with bipartisan support.

The Assembly will vote today on a comprehensive drunken driving bill, said Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville. The bill will make the fourth offense, instead of fifth offense, a felony.

Other parts of the package include requiring ignition interlock devices for all repeat offenders and for first-time offenders whose blood alcohol content is above .15, nearly double the legal limit of .08.

But a more politically difficult idea, criminalizing a first offense, isn’t in play. Wisconsin is the only state where a first-offense drunken driving charge is a traffic violation and not a crime. The bill up for a vote Thursday would make the first offense a crime if there is a child under age 16 in the car.

The Senate bill remains in committee but will be acted on this fall, Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker said.

Topics Personal Auto Wisconsin Politics

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