It’s a new year, and that means there are new OWI (operating while impaired) laws in Wisconsin. As of January 1st, 2017, if you receive a fourth drunk driving conviction it’s now an automatic felony. If you’re a repeat offender that means you’ll get increased jail time for that fourth offense, and there’s also increased jail time for a fifth and sixth OWI offense too.
It was a legal battle to pass those new laws, and now a Wisconsin state representative wants to propose further legislation designed to ensure that the current penalties are enforced. There are a few things that the Wisconsin lawmaker feels the need to change, but his main focus is ignition interlock compliance.
Wisconsin requires an ignition interlock installation for any first time OWI offender with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.15. Repeat offenders must install an ignition interlock too, and so do any offenders who refuse to submit to a blood or breath test if a police officer asks them to.
Although they are required by law, offenders in Wisconsin aren’t installing the devices. Not only that, there’s no harsh punishment for not installing your ignition interlock. You could receive fine up to $600 and you may receive six months of jail time if the court makes that decision, but other than that your ignition interlock program time will simply be extended. That doesn’t provide a lot of incentive for people to install the device and compete their required time with an ignition interlock.
Wisconsin is finally catching on to what other states have realized: it’s one thing to pass an all offender ignition interlock law, it’s quite another to enforce it. But enforcing ignition interlock compliance is part of the bigger picture in the fight against drunk driving, and if every state would get on board with harsh penalties for not complying, there would be a drastic reduction in drunk driving arrests.