GREEN BAY - Two lawmakers are hoping to toughen drunken driving offenses in Wisconsin. The Assembly's Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss the proposals Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control says every day, nearly 30 people die in drunken driving crashes. Those who've experience the loss first hand say something has to be done.
"Wisconsin courts sentencing seems to go along with the idea that it's the culture here in Wisconsin. It's a mistake to drink and drive," said Paul Jenkins, a victim's father. "Driving while drunk is not an accident. It is a choice made by the individual."
Paul Jenkins, father of a drunken driving victim, spoke at Thursday's committee hearing to discuss the new bills.
One bill would change third and fourth offenses from misdemeanors to felonies.
The second pushes for mandatory sentences ranging from six months in jail to three years in prison for drivers who injure someone while driving drunk.
The third bill sets a mandatory, 10-year prison sentence for anyone who kills a person while driving drunk.
"I think there will be a deterrent affect as people realize the laws are becoming more stringent," explained Lt. Karl Ackermann with the Green Bay Police Department.
The Green Bay Police Department supports the changes.
Since January, Ackermann the department has seen 445 OWI arrests, 24 of those include repeat offenders.
"Bottom line is, third offense, if you haven't gotten it by then, you probably need to have more stringent measures put in place so that you understand it's not okay to go out, get intoxicated and drive a motor vehicle," Ackermann said.
And those with the Brown County Tavern League feel the same way.
"If you're getting your 3rd or 4th offense, you've been warned and those are the kind of people that are causing the accidents," said Barry Fitzgerald, President of the Brown County Tavern League.
But the measures could carry hefty price tags.
The state Department of Corrections projected the change could cost up to $226 million in operating costs a year.
"It's unlikely we're going to get this bill to go through, it's a lot of money" explained State Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie).
The committee did not take any action on the bills.
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