BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) Lawmakers say it’s time to stop enabling drunk drivers by changing a law that currently considers drunk driving, drunk boating and operating snowmobiles or ATVs or UTVs impaired, all as separate offenses.
Cropped Photo James Palinsad Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
It’s a problem Target 2 Investigates first told you about last year, where we found 30 percent of the people arrested in Northeast Wisconsin for boating under the influence also had records for OWI on our roadways.
Several of those people had third or fourth offense OWIs, but the violations for operating any of those recreational vehicles while drunk aren’t considered the same thing and don’t increase penalties.
Now lawmakers are trying to change that.
“People are not really going to see significant penalties, and people are aware of that. Unfortunately, there are people that game the system. They know what the rules are,” says Representative Andre Jacgue, a republican from De Pere.
Jacque says current OWI laws are not only not working in favor of victims, he says there are people who downright try to outsmart the system because they can.
Take this example: if a person gets stopped a first time for OWI while operating a car, then another time operating a boat drunk, then a snowmobile, and an ATV or UTV, their record will reflect only one OWI for each, but all would remain a first offense.
“You could literally have four different OWI infractions without any of them counting as a repeat offense,” adds Jacque.
He and fellow republican Representative Cody Horlacher just introduced a bill making the law more consistent, counting every OWI in the last five years as the same, regardless of what you’re operating when you’re stopped.
Under the bill, if a person’s license to drive a motor vehicle has been suspended or revoked, they would also not be able to operate any of these other recreational vehicles or boats.
Right now they can, and Jacque says, often do.
“They’ll take those snowmobiles to the bar after they lose their driving privileges,” he says. “There’s still that same destructive potential, and certainly we’ve seen lives lost.”
Jacque has proposed similar legislation in the past and been met with strong push back, but he feels he has to keep trying for change.