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GOP lawmakers unveil tougher OWI restrictions

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MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Two GOP state legislators are pressing on with their clampdown on drunk driving – even some lawmakers have balked at the cost of handling those offenders.

Assembly Republican Jim Ott of Mequon and Senate finance chair Alberta Darling of River Hills are promoting a half-dozen bills. Ott said he introduced them today.

All first-time drunk drivers would have to appear in court, even if they just get ticketed instead of criminally charged. Wisconsin is the only state in which first-time OWI is not a crime, except when kids are in the vehicle.

Ott’s package would make the first offense a crime if the driver’s blood alcohol content is 0.15 or higher, with automatic jail time thrown in.

There would mandatory minimum sentences for OWI cases involving injuries and deaths – and fatal crashes would require a 10-year term. Also, drivers would lose their vehicles for the third or more offense.

Ott and Darling have pressed the issue for some time. But even some of their GOP colleagues said the added detention costs would be too much in the midst of a tight state budget.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving did not have an immediate comment. That group has pushed for even tighter OWI restrictions – like sobriety checkpoints. 

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