A soon-to-be-proposed bipartisan bill would revoke drunk drivers’ licenses after their fifth incidence of driving under the influence.
The period of revocation would last for 10 years, and offenders would not be eligible to apply for an occupational license during this period, co-author of the bill, Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay, said.
Under current law, offenders are eligible to apply for an occupational license — to drive to and from work or other limited activities — after a waiting period, which can be as little as 45 days, according to the bill.
Rep. André Jacque, R-De Pere, the bill’s second co-author, said part of the problem with current legislation is the revocation periods are too short, allowing habitual drunk driving offenders to reapply for new licenses over and over again.
Under new law, drivers would still be able to apply for new licenses, but only after the 10 year period and an alcohol and drug assessment, Genrich said.
Genrich said he hopes the installation of a longer revocation period and the “five strikes and you’re out” policy will decrease habitual drunk driving.
“We saw this as a potential solution to hopefully reduce the incident, especially the habitual incident of drunk driving in the state,” Genrich said.
Jacque said Wisconsin has the highest rate of drunk driving in the country, with more than one-third of fatal car accidents being alcohol-related.
Genrich said this legislation was created in response to recent reports by the Green Bay Press Gazette highlighting the issue of drunk driving in Wisconsin. Green Bay Press Gazette began a statewide campaign to bring attention to the issue and look for potential solutions, Genrich said.
Genrich said the state of New York also helped inspire the legislation as it currently has a “five strikes and you’re out” DUI legislation in place and has seen positive results.
Joel DeSpain, Madison Police Department spokesperson, said it was common for him to come across repeated incidences of drunk driving.
“It’s not uncommon for me [to be] going through the booking sheets and putting out incident reports to see someone with a fourth, a fifth, a sixth time drunken driving offense,” DeSpain said.
Genrich said these habitual offenders are a source of frustration for Wisconsin citizens and need to be responded to.
Jacque said this bill would remove from the roads those who have lost their driving privilege, creating safer roads for everyone.
DeSpain said even though he lauds the effort to strengthen drunk driving laws, new laws still might not solve the issue.
“While we support efforts to toughen up laws to keep drunken drivers off of the roads, part of the problem is even if you’re taking away their license, their keys, everything else, somehow they find a way to get back behind the wheel,” DeSpain said.
In a joint invitation to co-sponsor the bill, Rep. David Steffen, R-Green Bay, Jacque and Genrich said the bill already has the support of Wisconsin Professional Police Association, Badger State Sheriffs Association, Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association and Brown County Sheriff, John Gossage.
Genrich said the bill already has bipartisan support, and they are circulating the bill to gather more supporters.
“It’s obviously not a partisan issue,” Genrich said. “People, regardless of affiliation, are responding to what they see as a real problem on Wisconsin roadways.”