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UPDATE: Walker signs bill targeting repeat drunken drivers

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UPDATED Tuesday, April 8, 2014 --- 6:03 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker has signed into law a bill that requires drunken drivers who injure someone to spend at least 30 days in jail.

Under current law, judges can sentence a drunken driver who injures someone from between 30 days and one year in jail. The bill Walker signed Tuesday would clarify the law to require that the person be sentenced to at least 30 days behind bars.

The new law also makes clear that anyone convicted of drunken driving for a seventh, eighth or ninth time must spend at least three years in prison.

The measure was one of the few the Legislature passed this year related to drunken driving, leading to criticisms that lawmakers didn't do enough to address the problem.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 18, 2014 --- 2:40 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Drunken drivers who injure someone would have to spend at least 30 days in jail under a bill that has passed the Wisconsin state Senate.

Democratic Sen. Tim Carpenter argued that the Legislature didn't do enough this year to combat drunken driving this year and tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to toughen the law.

Under current law, judges can sentence a drunken driver who injures someone from between 30 days and one year in jail. The bill passed Tuesday would require that the person be sentenced to at least 30 days behind bars.

The bill would also make clear that anyone convicted of drunken driving for a seventh, eighth or ninth time must spend at least three years in prison.

The measure now heads to Gov. Scott Walker.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 18, 2014 ---- 5:15 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Drunken drivers who injure someone would have to spend at least 30 days in jail under a bill up for a vote in the Wisconsin state Senate.

Under current law, judges can sentence a drunken driver who injures someone from between 30 days and one year in jail. The bill up for a vote Tuesday would require that the person be sentenced to at least 30 days behind bars.

The bill would also make clear that anyone convicted of drunken driving for a seventh, eighth or ninth time must spend at least three years in prison. That was the intention of a bill passed in 2009, but a court ruled last year that the law actually gives judges discretion on whether to impose any prison sentence.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, February 27, 2014 --- 10:37 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Senate's public safety committee has approved a bill that would require all first-time drunken driving offenders to appear in court.

First-offense drunken driving in Wisconsin is a civil violation akin to a speeding ticket. Offenders can pay their fines without appearing in court.

Republican Rep. Jim Ott's bill would mandate court appearances for first-time offenders. Any offenders who fail to show up would be found guilty, be subject to arrest and face an additional $300 surcharge on top of their drunken driving fine.

The Assembly passed the bill on a voice vote in November. The Senate panel approved the measure unanimously Thursday, clearing the way for a vote in the full Senate.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, December 27, 2013 --- 2:44 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Bills designed to toughen Wisconsin's notoriously weak drunken driving laws that passed the state Assembly with bipartisan support may be going nowhere in the Senate.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald tells The Associated Press he would prefer to spend money on setting up special drunken driving treatment courts statewide before considering the bills. He said Friday the courts would be a more effective way to tackle drunken driving.

One of the bills awaiting Senate action would make all second offenses misdemeanors. Under current law, a second offense committed more than 10 years after a first offense is considered a first offense.

Another proposal would require all first-time offenders to make an appearance in court. A third bill would ensure that court-ordered ignition interlock devices are promptly installed.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, November 5, 2013 --- 2:54 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Assembly has passed three bills designed to toughen the state's notoriously weak drunken driving laws.

One measure passed 88-7 on Tuesday would make all second offenses misdemeanors. Under current law, a second offense committed more than 10 years after a first offense is considered a first offense.

The bill would also make all fourth offenses felonies, no matter how far back the previous offenses occurred. Currently, fourth offenses committed more than five years after a third offense are misdemeanors.

Another proposal passed on a voice vote would require all first-time offenders to make an appearance in court. A third bill passed would ensure that ignition interlock devices are promptly installed when ordered by a court.

Wisconsin is the only state where first offense drunken driving isn't a crime.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, September 12, 2013 --- 3:04 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A legislative committee has approved a package of bills that would impose tougher sanctions on drunken drivers.

The Republican-authored measures would change third and fourth offenses from misdemeanors to felonies; ensure all second offenses are misdemeanors and all fourth offenses would be felonies; require mandatory court appearances; impose mandatory sentences for drunken drivers who injure or kill someone; and allow authorities to seize drunken drivers' cars.

The GOP-controlled Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the six measures Thursday, clearing the way for a vote in the full Assembly. Republican legislative leaders have been noncommittal about the bills, though. The bills carry price tags in the tens of millions of dollars for prosecutors and the state's prison system.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, September 9, 2013 --- 10:00 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin Assembly committee is scheduled to vote this week on a package of bills that would impose stiffer sanctions on drunken drivers.

The Republican-authored proposals would change third and fourth offenses from misdemeanors to felonies; make the first offense a misdemeanor if the driver's blood-alcohol level is 0.15 percent or higher; impose mandatory sentences on drunken drivers who injure or kill someone; require mandatory court appearances; and allow authorities to seize drunken drivers' cars.

The bills come with enormous price tags. The state Department of Corrections estimates changing third and fourth offenses to felonies could drive up the agency's operating costs by as much as $226 million annually.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee is set to vote on the bills Thursday. Approval would clear the way for a full Assembly vote.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, August 15, 2013--5:40p.m.
MADISON-- We've all heard stories like this: "In my nightmares, Davi is shouting 'slow down, slow down' and he says to me 'mom, I tried really hard to stay alive'," said one mother, severed from her son forever by a drunk driver. "...... In 2015 Davi will still be dead."

But it seems no matter how many times tragedies like this occur, some people continue choosing to drink and drive.

State Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, and State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, are trying to crack down on this bad behavior by pushing for a series of bills meant to deter drunks from driving. One of them gives courts the option of seizing the vehicle of someone who has committed three or more offenses. "We're not trying to say you shouldn't have a good time in Wisconsin. We know that beer, brats, Badger games, Packer games are big tradition," said Darling. "Picnics, festivals are big traditions in Wisconsin. But we think it's time to start talking about responsible drinking and driving and to talk about it seriously. "

Of the other two bills, one would require offenders to appear in court.
Another makes a first offense a crime if your blood alcohol content is .15 or higher.

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UPDATED Thursday, August 15, 2013 --- 10:22 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Two Republican lawmakers are trying to make the case for another set of bills that would create tougher penalties for drunken drivers in front of a legislative committee.

The measures would make a first offense a misdemeanor if the driver's blood alcohol level is at least 0.15 percent, allow authorities to seize drunken drivers' cars starting with their third offense and require mandatory court appearances.

The bill's authors, Rep. Jim Ott and Sen. Alberta Darling, told the Assembly Judiciary Committee the measures will deter drunken driving. Committee Democrats questioned whether the moves would make any real difference.

Ott and Darling have introduced three other bills that would make third and fourth offenses felonies and set mandatory sentences for drunken drivers who injure or kill someone.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, August 15, 2013 --- 7:33 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A legislative committee is set to take public comments on another set of bills that would create tougher penalties for drunken drivers.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee has scheduled a public hearing on the bills for Thursday morning at the state Capitol. The measures would make a first offense a misdemeanor if the driver's blood alcohol level is at least 0.15 percent, allow authorities to seize drunken drivers' cars starting with their third offense and require mandatory court appearances for accused drunken drivers.

The bills' Republican authors, Rep. Jim Ott and Sen. Alberta Darling, also are pushing legislation that would make third and fourth offenses felonies and set mandatory sentences for drunken drivers who injure or kill someone.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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Posted Sunday, August 11, 2013 -- 6:16 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The public will get a chance to sound off this week on a new set of bills that would create tougher penalties for drunken drivers.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee has scheduled a public hearing for Thursday on the measures, which would make a first offense a misdemeanor if the driver's blood alcohol level is 0.15 percent or higher, allow authorities to seize drunken drivers' cars and require mandatory court appearances for accused drunken drivers.

The committee isn't expected to take any action but will listen to public comments on the proposals.

The bills' Republican authors, Rep. Jim Ott and Sen. Alberta Darling, also are pushing bills that would make third and fourth offenses felonies and create mandatory sentences for drunken drivers who injure or kill someone.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press


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