Lawmakers Push for Stricter DUI Laws

CREATED May. 6, 2011

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  • State Sen. Alberta Darling and State Rep. Jim Ott are calling for tougher drunken driving laws. Video by wtmj.com

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MILWAUKEE - Two Milwaukee area lawmakers are trying to toughen up drunk driving penalties in Wisconsin.

Right now, the penalty for a first offense OWI is a ticket. State Senator Alberta Darling (R - River Hills) and State Representative Jim Ott (R - Mequon) would like to change that. The legislatures are pushing for a bill that would make some first time OWIs a crime.

"We need to change the culture in Wisconsin," said Darling. "We cannot have the highest incident of drunk driving. That is not Wisconsin. I don't accept that."

The current laws are also not acceptable to Paul Jenkins. His pregnant step-daughter, Jennifer Bukosky and her daughter were killed by a drunk driver who was under the influence of drugs. It wasn't his first offense. Jenkins was heartbroken two years ago when lawmakers passed a watered down version of a tougher bill.

"Judy and I pretty much gave up hope after Bill 100 was passed that any meaningful drunk driving relief would pass," Jenkins admitted.

In addition to making first offense criminal, if the blood alcohol content is higher than .15, it would strengthen other penalties for repeat drunk drivers. Jenkins hopes it passes and makes people think twice before drinking and driving.

"If you have any doubt in your mind, you just shouldn't get behind the wheel of your car," said Jenkins.

In the past, political will has been lacking to criminalize the first offense. Opponents argued it is expensive and unfair.

The bill was to be introduced Friday for co-sponsors. Representative Ott says it could go before a committee in a matter of weeks.