Wisconsin bill would criminalize first-time drunken driving offenses

Republican lawmakers introduced a bill on Thursday in the Wisconsin legislature that would criminalize first-time drunken driving offenses in the state.

Rep. Jim Ott and Sen. Alberta Darling introduced a bill that would classify first-time offenses as a misdemeanor punishable by up to $500 in fines and 30 days in jail, the Associated Press reported.

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Wisconsin is the only state that categorizes first-time drunken driving offenses as a civil violation instead of a crime, the AP noted.

Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers has said he was open to changing the law, favoring the criminalization of first-offense drunken driving to deter it.

“We have to find ways to make that first offense more meaningful to the offenders so they don’t offend again or don’t offend the first time,” Evers told WISC-TV on Wednesday. “Whether that’s making it a felony or not, I’m not sure.

Evers’s comments followed the death of a Wisconsin firefighter who was hit and killed on New Year’s Eve by a suspected drunken driver in Madison, the outlet noted.

There were an estimated 24,000 convictions for drunken driving offenses in Wisconsin in 2015, according to the state’s department of transportation.