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Governor, Assembly Speaker support tougher drunk driving laws

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UNDATED (WSAU)  Governor Scott Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos say they support a crackdown on drunk drivers. But they stopped short of endorsing the package of bills introduced yesterday by two of their fellow Republicans.

Mequon Representative Jim Ott and Senate Finance Chair Alberta Darling of River Hills have pushed for a long time to pass tougher O-W-I laws. Their newest package would make third-time drunk driving a felony, which would send more of those offenders to prison. And there would be mandatory sentences for drunk drivers who injure or kill others – including a 10-year minimum sentence for drunken homicide. Even hardline Republicans have shot down those kinds of measures in the past, saying the state cannot afford the millions in extra court-and-prison costs. But Darling asked what it says about victims and the state’s intolerance for drunk drivers when quote, “not only do we give you a do-over, we give you three of them.”

Speaker Vos says there needs to be an agreement on the how to best use state resources to fight drunk driving. Walker’s office would only say they’ll evaluate whatever gets to his desk.

Ott and Darling also want to make all first-time O-W-I suspects at least appear before a judge. Wisconsin is the only state that does not criminalize first-time drunk driving except when kids are in the vehicle – and many who get cited pay their fines without going to court. They also want to make the first offense a crime if the blood alcohol level is .15 or higher. And they would seize the vehicles used in third-and-subsequent offenses.

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