‘Cool’ Parents Don’t Help Their Kids Try Underage Drinking

underage drinking wisconsinThere’s a long held belief among some parents that underage drinking is OK as long as it’s done at home. That’s why parents will buy alcohol and host underage drinking parties for their children and friends: at least if they’re drinking at home, they’re safe and sound, right?

The Wisconsin government doesn’t think so, and one state representative has reintroduced a bill that would prohibit an adult from allowing underage drinking on their property. There is currently a law where parents can be fined for providing alcohol to a minor, but the onus is on law enforcement to prove the parent purchased the alcohol in the first place.

If this bill is passed, any parent who allows underage drinkers to consume alcohol on their property will be fined. Fines will be steep, and parents could pay fees as high as $500 per underage person on the property. Even two or three underage drinkers on the property can mean a serious dent in mom and dad’s wallet.

This is a bill that, if passed, won’t just stop parents from subverting local drinking laws by allowing kids to drink on their property. It will reduce the possibility that those kids will leave, get behind the wheel of their car, and drink and drive. Traffic crashes are the number one cause of teen death in the United States, and according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17% of drivers age 16 to 20 were who were involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher.

Wisconsin has some of the most lax drinking and driving laws in the entire nation, and a first time offense ends up in a ticket, not a criminal charge. Along with this bill to stop parents from providing their kids with alcohol, there are several bills on the table this spring to toughen up drinking and driving laws. If they all pass, within a year Wisconsin should be a much safer place for everyone who lives there.


Is Now The Time Wisconsin Will Improve Its OWI Laws?

Wisconsin-owi-lawsWisconsin’s operating while impaired (OWI) penalties are some of the most lax in the entire country. A single OWI isn’t a misdemeanor like it is in other states, it’s a minor traffic infraction.

If you receive a first OWI offense in Wisconsin, you get no jail time, a minor 6 month drivers license suspension, pay a max of $300 in fines, and you aren’t required to install an ignition interlock. Second offenders are only slightly worse off, and that might be why Wisconsin lawmakers want to hold a hearing to see just how far those penalties can be pushed and if anything will change if they do.

The public hearing would be on a bill that requires state transportation officials to pull a repeat OWI offender’s drivers license for at least 10 years. As of right now, even if you are a repeat OWI offender and have racked up 5 or 6 charges, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) only revokes a license for up to a max of 3 years.

If the new bill passes, the Wisconsin DOT would permanently revoke a drivers license for a chronic offender who’s been charged with OWI 5 or more times, and they’d also revoke a drivers license permanently if the offender has 3 or more OWI convictions and 2 or more serious crimes involving a vehicle. After 10 years have passed by, the offender could apply to get his or her drivers license back, but there’s no guarantee it will happen.

Will this new bill help Wisconsin cut down on the alcohol-related fatalities and injuries taking place in the state? It’s hard to say if this bill will improve their numbers, but they are so dismal right now that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) gave the state a failing grade on their Annual Report for 2014. At this point, every little bit will help Wisconsin with their OWI problem.



This Is Why Wisconsin Has An OWI Problem

wisconsin-owi-problemAccording to one State Senator in Wisconsin, the state has a dirty secret: no matter how many times they try to push new laws through to tough up on drinking and driving offenders, not one bill has seen a vote from state senate.

This is a state that really needs to improve their operating while intoxicated (OWI) laws. It currently has the distinction of being the only state that does not criminalize a first time drinking and driving conviction. That means if you’re stopped for drunk driving, you’re typically taken in, required to wait until you sober up, and released with a fine.

Several lawmakers have tried to change the laws for first time offenders, but each and every bill that appears before the Senate transportation committee dies because the majority leader won’t schedule any of the bills.

According to State Senator Tim Carpenter, that reluctance to schedule the bills is due in part to not wanting to overload the court system with OWI offenders. For families of Wisconsin residents killed by drunk drivers, that’s not a good enough reason.

Because OWI laws aren’t going to be toughened up in Wisconsin anytime soon, task forces, local police, and the public have had to step forward and take matters into their own hands. The state doesn’t allow for sobriety checkpoints, so volunteer police saturation patrols have seen success and resulted in a yearly decrease in alcohol-related crashes.

Senator Carpenter doesn’t believe he’ll see improved OWI legislation until after the next gubernatorial election in 2018, and a new bill introduced recently is only going to revoke a driver’s license after a Wisconsin resident receives 5 OWI’s.

In the meantime, Wisconsin drivers know that a first time OWI offense will result in nothing more than a slap on the wrist. That’s not good news for anyone who wants to feel comfortable driving on highways and roads in the state.

Life After OWI In Wisconsin

life-after-owi-wisconsinAfter a survey by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2008, Wisconsin was named the worst state for drunk driving in the entire USA. Over ¼ of adult drivers stated that they’ve driven drunk before, and 45% of fatal car crashes in Wisconsin involve alcohol.

Although Wisconsin takes the top spot for amount of drunk drivers in the USA, the state doesn’t have overly harsh operating while impaired (OWI) laws.

Here’s a look at what life is like after an OWI in Wisconsin.

There’s a lot of regret that comes along with operating while impaired charge, and that regret will start the moment you see police lights flash and you know they’re meant for you. Even one or two drinks can net you an OWI charge in Wisconsin, because the state has very specific language to cover each and every possible incidence of intoxicated driving.

You can be charged with OWI for any of the following:

  • Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher
  • Driving under the influence of an intoxicant including alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or any other chemical substance
  • Driving under the influence of a restricted controlled substance
  • Driving under the influence of a controlled substance or other drug

If you’re pulled over and you the officer suspects you of OWI you’ll be asked to submit to a breathalyzer or perform field sobriety tests designed to assess if you’re under the influence of narcotics. If you fail, you’ll be arrested for OWI, and that’s when the real regret begins.

You might regret having to pay the fines and OWI surcharge. Fines range from $150 to $300 and the OWI surcharge is $365. You’ll have to pay for a Drug and Alcohol Assessment fee you’ll be required to undergo too.

You’ll really regret losing your drivers license for 6 to 9 months, because that means you’ll be taking the bus or cabs to and from work or where you need to go. The only good news is that you may qualify for an occupational drivers license. You can go to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to determine whether or not you qualify, but if you do, you may be able to drive a vehicle to and from home and work or home and school.

The only change to OWI penalties for a first offender will occur if your BAC was over .15 when you submitted a breath sample. If it was, you’ll be required to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle you drive. Repeat offenders are also required to install an ignition interlock.

Compared to other states, Wisconsin has a lighter set of penalties for first time drunk drivers, but that could change if lawmakers change the laws and close off loopholes allowing drunk drivers to keep driving. At that point, we may finally start seeing a drop in Wisconsin’s OWI rate.

Door Closing On This Wisconsin Ignition Interlock Loophole

ignition-interlock-loopholeSome people who are charged with drinking and driving simply accept their penalties and move on with their lives. Those are the people who will probably never re-offend, because they’ve learned their lesson after making the mistake of drinking and driving. Other people however, never seem to learn that drinking and driving is dangerous, and they continue to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after having a drink or two, drive during their license suspensions, and use loopholes to get out of using their ignition interlocks.

When it comes to loopholes, Wisconsin legislators have decided enough is enough. They’ve drafted a bill that would close the loophole where a convicted drunk driver who is required to drive with an ignition interlock device in their car can drive without one by using someone else’s car. If passed, offenders will need to install an ignition interlock device in every vehicle they drive, and it would be a criminal penalty for violating the ignition interlock order.

The bill will also give an incentive to first time operating while intoxicated (OWI) offenders to install an ignition interlock device. If they waive their right to a hearing and they immediately install the device, they won’t be required to lose their driving privileges.

As of right now, Wisconsin requires ignition interlock devices for repeat offenders, anyone who registers a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of twice the legal limit, anyone who refuses a field sobriety test, and anyone who injures or kills someone while drinking and driving.

Wisconsin is now at the point where the Assembly Committee On Transportation is hearing testimony on the bill. Will it pass? That remains to be seen, but if it does you can guarantee there will be a lot more people driving with an ignition interlock device in Wisconsin.

Say Goodbye To This Ignition Interlock Loophole

sworn-statement-to-not-drink-and-drive-vs-ignition-interlockDrinking and driving is a mistake, but it’s a mistake that a lot of people who get stopped for driving under the influence (DUI) really don’t want to take responsibility for. The laws are designed so that the penalties are severe, and that’s one of the reasons why offenders will attempt to find loopholes to avoid having to face the consequences.

With every law come loopholes people will use to try to get around it, and that’s never been truer than with ignition interlock and driving under the influence (DUI) laws. Take Wisconsin for example—after years of attempting to stop drunk drivers from becoming repeat offenders, lawmakers in the state think they’ve finally found a way to stop people from continuing to drink and drive.

Right now, first time operating while impaired (OWI) offenders in Wisconsin are required to install an ignition interlock device for one year if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15% or higher. Repeat offenders are also required to install an ignition interlock for a minimum of one year.

But drivers were able to get around the ignition interlock requirement in a very simple way—when they were ordered to install the device, they had to designate a vehicle in which they’d have it fitted. If they were caught driving in a vehicle that wasn’t theirs and that didn’t have an ignition interlock device, it wouldn’t be a criminal offense. Instead, it would be like a operating during suspension, and that’s a pretty mild violation.

Wisconsin lawmakers want to close that loophole by attaching ignition interlock requirements to driver’s licenses. If an offender receives an OWI in Wisconsin, they’ll also receive a designation on their restricted license that indicates they’re required to use an ignition interlock device at all times and in all vehicles. If you were caught driving without one, you would be up for a criminal offense.

If passed, drunk drivers in Wisconsin who do the crime will have to spend their time with an ignition interlock, and it could happen soon because the bill will be under debate come fall.


Should Wisconsin DUI Penalties Be Stronger?

Police officer writing ticketWisconsin is the only U.S. state that does not consider a first-time DUI offense a crime. Other states require jail time, counseling, and even an in-car breathalyzer called an ignition interlock to start an offender’s vehicle. Wisconsin simply hands out a ticket.

Yet Wisconsin is infamous for its consumption of alcohol. They claim to be the number 1 binge drinkers in the country. They also have the highest percentage of drinkers per capita. Unfortunately, they also admit to having the most number of drivers under the influence on their roads.

In 2012, Wisconsin had 200 drunk driving fatalities; much higher than the national average. The Wisconsin legislature met just after St. Patrick’s Day to pass a bill clarify the current drunk driving penalties. They required penalties for those drunken drivers who injure someone. They also required prison time of at least three years for those offenders on their seventh, eighth, or ninth conviction.

Yet they did not expand or strengthen the law to address first time offenders or increase penalties for other repeat offenders. The topic is often debated. One concern is the cost of prosecuting. A state analysis concluded last year that making a third drunken-driving conviction a felony would add millions to court and correction costs.

Jim Ott, R-Mequon, has offered up numerous legislative bills to toughen penalties. “We continue to have so many outrageous crashes in Wisconsin,” Ott told The Associated Press in 2012. “Do we just sit back and say ‘we have to live with this’’ or are we going to try and do something?”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been lobbying to bring Wisconsin DUI penalties in line with most other states. Programs that require an ignition interlock device have proven successful in other states. In New Mexico, for instance, DUI fatalities have been reduced by 35% since the state has required that all DUI offenders use an interlock device.

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