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Republican lawmakers challenged on bills to crackdown on drunk drivers

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Two Republicans who want tougher penalties on drunk drivers were challenged at a hearing Thursday.

Democrats on the Assembly Judiciary Committee told Mequon Representative Jim Ott and River Hills Senator Alberta Darling to come up with proof that their measures work in other states. They said they want to make sure that locking up more offenders will actually deter drunk driving.

Thursday’s hearing was for three bills from Ott and Darling to make first-time OWI a criminal misdemeanor for blood alcohol levels of 0.15 or higher. Those with three or more drunk driving convictions could get their vehicles seized. And all OWI suspects would have to appear in court at least once.

Ott questioned whether lawmakers needed evidence to know that offenders who appear before a judge are less likely to re-offend than someone who just pays a fine by mail.

Also, lawmakers heard more testimony from relatives of those killed by drunk drivers, demanding a crackdown. Similar testimony was given at another recent hearing on 3 other bills from Ott and Darling to make three and four-time OWI a felony, and create longer mandatory sentences for those who kill or injure motorists by driving drunk. 

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