Wisconsin has no ‘will’ to crack down on first-time drunk drivers

Wisconsin is the only state that doesn’t treat first-time drunk driving as a crime and that apparently is the way it’s going to stay, the La Crosse Tribune says today.

Lawmakers have given up on toughening the sanctions for drunk driving.

We’re the only state in the country that doesn’t have a stiffer penalty for first offense — it’s treated like a parking ticket,” Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, tells the paper. “But we aren’t going to be able to change that. There isn’t the will.”

“We’ve been told most people want to focus on repeated drunken drivers so that’s where we have settled,” she said.

“We’re finding the first-time offenders aren’t the big re-offenders if you look at where it is, it’s second and above.”

A lobbyist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving says the tavern industry is too powerful to get first-time DUI laws through the Assembly. The group favors ignition interlock device requirements for first-time drunk drivers.

The legislators still have hope for a bill requiring a minimum five-year prison sentence for anyone who kills someone while driving drunk, the paper says.

  • jon

    This feels familiar…

    We don’t have the will, we don’t have the courts, we do certainly have a list of excuses…

    Wisconsin, 269 traffic fatalities YTD*
    Minnesota, 162 traffic fatalities YTD**

    Which is actually super interesting because previous years are higher for MN than WI…
    Did something change, or does MN just have a higher rate of fatalities later in the year (holiday season?).

    * http://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/about-wisdot/newsroom/statistics/fatality.aspx
    ** http://www.dot.state.mn.us/trafficeng/safety/

    • AL287

      If you drive down 3rd St. in downtown La Crosse, WI you would understand the rationale for the argument for the courts being overwhelmed by drunk driving cases, first offense or otherwise.

      Even if you lower the legal limit for DWI, people are going to drive drunk anyway. There is no way to stop a person from getting behind the wheel drunk unless you lock them in jail. If you take away their vehicle they will drive a car belonging to someone else.

      So the vicious cycle continues and people continue to be killed by drunk drivers.

      • jon

        Yup, lot’s of excuses, very little will to do something.

  • Jim in RF

    I’ve been here for almost 20 years now, and would speculate that the cops (at least locally) are much more attentive and engaged than they used to be, but the consequences and courts haven’t changed much. It just doesn’t hit the public safety agenda — people are much more worried about where sex offenders live or how much teachers are paid.

  • X.A. Smith

    “We’re finding the first-time offenders aren’t the big re-offenders if you look at where it is, it’s second and above.”

    Um, yeah. By definition. That is some first-rate Wisconsin logic there.

  • Laurie K.

    Wisconsin also rarely enforces a statute which imposes criminal sanctions against those who supply alcohol to intoxicated persons. Also, Wisconsin’s dram shop act grants civil immunity to those who would otherwise be liable for alcohol-related injuries. I think this speaks to how strong the Wisconsin Tavern League is and how much clout they appear to have over Wisconsin legislatures.