Keeping Drivers With a Revoked License Off the Road

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

A crash on the Interstate this weekend raises the issue of how to keep a driver with a revoked license off the road. Investigators say a man with a revoked license and seven prior OWI convictions crossed the median, hitting a minivan and leaving one man in serious condition.

The suspect has not appeared in court, but investigators believe alcohol is a factor in this crash, a crash that they say could've been prevented.

"Close to 50 percent of fatal crashes involve alcohol," State Patrol Sgt. Gary Bauer said.

Investigators believe alcohol is a factor in this interstate crash that left a Lake Geneva man in serious condition. State Patrol says a Jeep driven by a Marshall man crossed the median, hitting a minivan head-on.

Investigators say the man behind the wheel of the Jeep, Mark Spangler, has a revoked license and seven prior OWI convictions.

"It's not uncommon to stop drunk drivers and have two or three previous convictions, and we do come across people who have five, six, even seven," Bauer said.

First offense OWI is considered a civil case. Second through fourth, criminal misdemeanors, with a mandatory five days in jail for a second offense. A person facing a fifth OWI faces a felony charge.

"If a person gets a fourth, often going to get a fifth, going to get a sixth, and that's when judges start talking about prison as opposed to jail or lesser punishments," Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard said.

Blanchard refuses to comment on the Spangler case, but says he supports making a first offense OWI a crime, a notion considered by candidates in this year's race for attorney general.

"Should those dispositions be very harsh on the first? No. I don't know that they need to be. I think we see a lot of fall off from the first," Blanchard said.

But Blanchard and Bauer say only one way exists to ensure someone stays off the road.

"We have laws in place to deal with people caught, but unfortunately how much do you want to be policed? Do we just lock them up and throw away the key to protect society," Bauer asked.

AG candidate Kathleen Falk supports making a first offense OWI a crime. J.B. Van Hollen disagrees, but his campaign says he supports stiffening the penalty.

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