Sorry State of U.S. OWI Laws: Man Receives Eight Year Prison Sentence after Ninth DUI Conviction
In the state of Wisconsin, a first offense of operating while intoxicated (OWI) is punishable only by a small fine and six to nine months in jail. No interlock device is required, and offenders are still permitted to drive to and from work or school. Secondary offenses may not be much better. For example, Wisconsin does require an interlock for subsequent offenses, but jail time falls anywhere between five days and six months. Moreover, license suspension time is only increased to 12 to 18 months, and fines are only marginally increased.
The increase of penalties is so poor, in fact, that it took nine OWI convictions before one man was sentenced to serve eight years in prison. And even then, prosecuting attorneys allegedly had to plead with the judge to finally get the man off the road and behind bars. Though he had not harmed anyone, statistics indicate it would have only been a matter of time (impaired driving accounts for one-third of all automobile accident deaths).
First Offense Not Always First Time Driving Drunk
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the average first time offender has driven drunk at least 80 times before he or she is ever arrested. This is, of course, statistical information. Some of these drivers may have only made one bad choice. However, it is also worth mentioning that, although people drive drunk more than 300,000 times per day, only 3,200 are arrested; clearly this indicates a serious disparity that leaves a lot of room for repeat offenses.
Previous Offenders Most Likely to Reoffend
While anyone can make a bad choice and decide to get behind the wheel intoxicated, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that one-third of all OWI arrests are of individuals with previous convictions. More specifically, that is approximately one out of every three arrests. To make matters worse, 50 to 75 percent of convicted offenders ignore their license suspension and drive drunk again anyway.
Interlock Devices, Heavier Penalties Could Improve Road Safety
All of this evidence paints a clear picture: something is wrong with the OWI laws in Wisconsin. Lives are unnecessarily lost because our justice system is failing. Convicted drivers should face heavier penalties to deter them from repeat infractions, and interlock devices should be installed after a first offense. Moreover, victims and their families should receive fair compensation for death or injury.
Unfortunately, when someone is injured or killed as a result of another's intoxicated use of a motor vehicle, the District Attorney, not the victim or victim's family, makes the decision about charging the offender. Even when there is a conviction, the victim or the victim's family is at the mercy of a judge to order an appropriate sentence. Our civil court system, however, allows for the victim or family to seek justice through financial compensation. Claims can not only be made for medical expenses or funeral expenses, wage loss, pain and suffering, and loss of society and companionship, but also for “punitive damages.” Punitive damages can be awarded to punish the drunk driver and send a message to other drivers who chose to get behind the wheel when intoxicated. In most situations, damages caused by the intoxicated use of a motor vehicle may not be dischargeable in bankruptcy. Unlike the criminal justice system, the civil justice system allows the victim to take action!
The Appleton personal injury attorneys and Green Bay personal injury attorneys of Herrling Clark Law Firm Ltd. recognize just how drastically an OWI accident can alter your life, and we believe justice should be served. Dedicated and experienced, we can help represent you in your case and ensure your rights are protected every step of the way. Get started today by calling 920-739-7366 to schedule your free initial consultation today.