MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he doesn’t support criminalizing first-offense drunken driving.
Wisconsin is the only state in the nation where a first-offense is a civil violation rather than a crime. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has said he’s open to making first-offense a crime and Republican Rep. Jim Ott has introduced a bill that would do just that.
Vos said Thursday that he doesn’t want to fill up Wisconsin jails with people who make a simple mistake and he believes most first-timers won’t re-offend. He says he would rather focus on repeat drunken drivers.
He say he does support two Ott bills, which were passed in the Assembly floor vote Thursday.
The first measure would require anyone arrested for a first offense to appear in court. Currently a first offense is a civil violation, not a criminal one, and people can skip their initial court appearance.
The bill also would eliminate provisions in state law that allow second offenses to be treated as a civil violation rather than a misdemeanor if the first offense took place at least 10 years earlier. The second proposal would establish a minimum five-year sentence for anyone convicted of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.
Republican Rep. Jim Ott authored both bills.
The bills now go to the state Senate.