The charge of operating while intoxicated (OWI) carries fines and penalties that are high, and if some people had their way, the penalties would increase. Legislators in the state want to make it harder to get back behind the wheel after an OWI, but the cost of doing so is prohibitive.
Right now, a first-time offense will result in a fine in most cases. Some argue that the fine isn't enough of a penalty, because someone who has been arrested for driving drunk likely did so many times before. Toughening penalties isn't that easy though. There are bills that state that make a fourth drunk-driving offense a felony and that maximize all penalties after the seventh. Those became law during the last legislative session. Others would like to continue passing bills, like one that would create a 5-year prison sentence for anyone who drives drunk and kills someone.
Another would require ignition interlock devices to be used if the driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher on a first-time offense or repeat offense. The state Assembly has passed that bill, which could become law.
What prevents a new bill from becoming law? It comes down to cost. The bill that makes fourth offenses felonies is expected to cost $98 million more annually by increasing state prison expenses. The same would be true if harsher penalties are created for low-level offense.
Laws are always changing. If you're arrested for an OWI, your attorney can help you understand the laws as they apply to your case today. With the right help, you can fight the charge and penalties associated with your case.
Source: Lake Country Now, "Cost the biggest hurdle to increasing OWI penalties in Wisconsin," Steven Martinez, July 31, 2017