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Criminalizing first-time OWI in Wisconsin has a high price tag

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Summer is still in swing in Wisconsin, and we still have several weeks before Labor Day weekend officially ends the summer season. That means there is still time for cook-outs, days at the lake and festivals. Alcohol is served at many of these events, and most people drink responsibly.

Still, there are times when a motorist will be pulled over, given a breath test, and then be issued a citation for operating under the influence. It is important to note that Wisconsin is the only state in the U.S. where a first-time OWI is not a criminal offense. However, a proposal is being made that would change that.

Changing this law, however, is not without its financial hurdles. Per budget estimates, if first-time OWI offenses were made criminal offenses, it would cost the state over $13 million annually. $5 million of that amount would go to increasing the number of judges needed to process these cases and $3 million of that amount would go to increasing the number of prosecutors needed to process these cases.

While some counties see the change as necessary for public safety, other counties state that there simply isn't enough money to implement these changes. One State Representative believes that making first-time OWIs criminal offenses would be a deterrent, and thus the projected estimates for instituting such changes will not be as high as they have been calculated to be.

It is important to keep track of any changes in OWI law in Wisconsin. Those with questions can seek the guidance of those with experience in drunk driving defense. These professionals understand these issues and may be a useful resource.

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Middleton, WI 53562

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