UPDATE (WKOW) -- Six bills have been introduced this session to toughen drunk driving laws in Wisconsin. The public weighed in on three of those Thursday at the Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing.
The bills' authors Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Jim Ott stressed how the state's drunk driving laws are behind other states in terms of severity.
"We're the only state in the country that has the first offense almost like a parking ticket," Darling told the committee. "We're way out of line with Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, our surrounding neighbors."
These three bills would criminalize a 1st offense OWI if the offender's BAC is above .15 percent, allow police to take away the person's car on a 3rd offense OWI, and make court appearances mandatory.
Many of those who testified in support have lost a loved one to drunk driving. "Our son, Davi Dohm, was killed by a drunk driver on April 15 of 2011," Sue Dohm told the lawmakers. She says she's "really offended" when people say Wisconsin can't afford more laws.
"Wisconsin has a very bad reputation," Susan Hoefert told committee members. She now lives in Florida but says her husband was killed in a drunk driving crash in Wisconsin. "How can you talk about the cost of a human life?"
Lawmakers say they're on board with fixing Wisconsin's drinking and driving problem but some want to make sure these bills will be effective.
"What has been the deterrent effect of these three measures in other states?" Rep. Evan Goyke asked the bills' authors. Rep. Gary Hebl also said he would like to see data proving these tactics will work.
The committee took no action on the bills discussed Thursday. Ott and Darling are also pushing legislation that would make third and fourth drunk driving offenses a felony and set mandatory sentences for drunken drivers who injure or kill someone.
MADISON (WKOW) – Tougher drunk driving penalties are the focus of a public hearing at the state Capitol on Thursday.
Lawmakers are weighing several new bills that would make a first offense a misdemeanor for drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 percent or higher.
The measures would also allow police to take away a drunk drivers car and would require mandatory court appearances.
The bills' Republican authors, Rep. Jim Ott and Sen. Alberta Darling, also are pushing legislation that would make third and fourth drunk driving offenses a felony and set mandatory sentences for drunken drivers who injure or kill someone.
The Assembly's Judiciary Committee is just gathering comments on Thursday and won't be taking any action. The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday
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