Dane County (WKOW) -- 27 News has found the consequences for more than a dozen high profile, hard core repeat drunken drivers in Dane County has been rarely cash bail, and rarely prison.
Rep. Tony Staskunas (D-West Allis) told 27 News in other court jurisdictions in Wisconsin, the outcome of cases of hard core, repeat drunken drivers appears similar: mostly jail with work release.
"They need to do time in prison," Staskunas said. "After you've got five (offenses), six, or higher, you have clearly shown that you don't care."
27 News reviewed the outcomes of fifteen repeat drunken driving cases, which had been the subject of news releases by the Dane County Sheriff during 2008. In all but two cases, the arrested person was accused of at least a fifth offense drunken driving. In eight pending cases, seven defendants are free with no cash bail. In seven completed cases, two defendants were sentenced to prison. Five defendants are jailed, with work release priveleges.
One of those hard core, repeat drunken drivers with work release is Ralph Stammen, 54, of New Glarus.
In March, a sheriff's deputy began a pursuit of Stammen on a two lane highway as Stammen hit speeds of 93 miles per hour. The chase continued into the community of New Glarus, with the deputy abandoning the pursuit because of safety concerns. The deputy ultimately found Stammen in front of his home. Stammen refused commands to stay outside, and hid inside. Stammen was later arrested.
Stammen's attorney, Stan Kaufman of Madison has handled dozens of drunken driving cases.
Kaufman said Stammen had maintained sobriety between a 2000 drunken driving conviction and just before the March arrest; worked as a state employee with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue; and provided the income to stave off his family's possible home foreclosure.
Kaufman said a prison sentence would have been disastrous. "He would have come out of prison with nothing left: no job, no career, no house, and no marriage."
CRACK DOWN PROPOSED
Staskunas plans to introduce legislation soon to require a mandatory prison sentence when a repeat drunken driver reaches a fifth offense, which is a felony. "When it's a felony, and you've got a repeat drunken driver, they need to go to prison."
"I think that proposals like this are misguided," Kaufman said. "They assume that, somehow the stiffer the punishment is, the more likely people won't commit the offense. There is no research that supports this kind of theory."
Staskunas said public protection from hard core, repeat offenders trumps the potential lack of treatment opportunities in a prison setting.
Several judges have already complained about Staskunas' expected mandatory minimum prison sentence proposal, arguing judges need discretion to handle each offender's individual circumstances.
Staskunas said the cost of the increased prison incarceration his proposal would bring have yet to be calculated. Proponents argue those costs won't equal the cost of reduced traffic safety and drunken driving injuries and deaths if repeat offenders are given any opportunity to return to the road.
CRUSADE AFTER GRIEF
Judy Jenkins of Mequon supports Staskunas' proposal, and lobbies for it, as well as other revisions to Wisconsin's drunken driving law on a website she launched this summer.
Jenkins launched the website after her daughter, Oconomowoc assistant school principal Jennifer Bukosky, her granddaughter, Courtney, and her daughter's unborn child, Sophia, were all killed in April in a collision with a repeat drunken driver.
"I have to believe in my heart that Courtney, Jennifer and Sophia didn't die in vain."
Jenkins is also pushing for the criminalization of first offense drunken driving. Wisconsin is the only state in which first offense drunken driving is treated as a civil matter.
Staskunas also plans to propose a new requirment for first offenders: the installation of ignition interlock devices on their cars, if their blood alcohol level is twice the state's legal limit of .08.
Jenkins said web site hits have multiplied over time, and people are connecting and e-mailing from other states.
Staskunas said the legislative climate is favorable to his ideas. "Repeat drunken driving is an issue people are angry about."
DANE COUNTY SHERIFF HIGH PROFILE CASES
Michael Blood 5th/no cash bail
Randall Endres 5th/no cash bail
Randall Fraser 6th/convicted/jail-work release
Michael Hartman 4th/no cash bail
Raymond Hilgers 5th/no cash bail
Fredrick Hurst 6th/no cash bail
Jean Jacobson 7th/cash bail
Douglas Nelson 5th/convicted/jail-work release
Roger Peterson 5th/convicted/jail-work release
Ralph Stammen 5th/convicted/jail-work release
Gerhard Stamn 5th/convicted/jail-work release
Wayne Seymour 6th/convicted/prison
Marcileno Montes 6th/convicted/prison
Jerald Walker 4th/no cash bail