Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager was arrested for drunk driving after she ran off the road Monday night while traveling from Madison to her home in Fond du Lac.
Police reports reveal that the attorney general’s car landed in a highway ditch at approximately 11:45 p.m. Lautenschlager told officers at the site of the accident she had just come from having drinks with friends before heading home.
The state’s top law enforcer released an open apology to Department of Justice employees Tuesday.
The letter said:
“I am sorry to tell you that I made a terrible mistake last night. While driving home, I fell asleep and drove off the road, and was subsequently cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. I wish to apologize to each and every one of you for the negative impact my actions might have on the Department and the public’s perception of this fine institution. I am extremely embarrassed about this and know that I have disappointed many people who have put their faith in me. I wish to thank the officers of the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department for their professionalism in handling this matter. I accept the consequences of and will take responsibility for my actions.”
After being placed under arrest, Lautenschlager refused to take a blood test. According to The Capital Times, if convicted of refusing the blood test, Lautenschlager will face the same penalties a drunken driving charge would entail. A Driving While Intoxicated penalty would result in a mandatory alcohol assessment, a license revocation for six to nine months, and a $150 to $300 fine.
Governor Jim Doyle’s office responded to the incident Tuesday.
“I have known Peg Lautenschlager for a long time and I’m sure she will look at this and do the right thing … I think she’s going to have to explain exactly what happened and be forthright about what happened and again, depending on what the outcome of the court case is, indicate what steps she’s going to take to not have it happen again,” Doyle said in a statement.
The incident came as a shock and disappointment to many who feel the attorney general’s actions damage both the interests of state law enforcement and the effort to fight drunk driving in Wisconsin. Executive director of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Wisconsin, Kari Kinnard, said the arrest was a “severe blow” to the advocacy group’s work at eradicating incidents of Driving While Intoxicated charges.
“It’s a devastating blow to the fight against drunk driving when the top law enforcer in the state is arrested for DWI,” Kinnard said. “That position and that department is a critical part of our work as an advocacy group.”
Although MADD Wisconsin is struggling to recover from Lautenschlager’s arrest, Kinnard said they are committed to using the incident as a “teachable moment” that will bring the issue of drunk driving to the front of the radar screen among Wisconsin residents.
“This has shown us there is so much work to do. In Wisconsin, there is a culture of acceptance of drinking and driving and that needs to stop,” Kinnard said.