Legislature looks to crack down on OWI - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Legislature looks to crack down on OWI

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- The state legislature is looking at a series of bills to increase penalties for OWI offenders.

The six bills would make changes to laws, including making the first offense with a blood alcohol content of .15 and above a criminal offense.

While down on OWI offenders could improve road safety, it would mean an influx of work for the district attorney's office and the jails.

Among the proposed changes in the bills, is making some first OWI offenses criminal misdemeanors and 3rd offenses felonies. One of the other bills would add a minimum sentence for an OWI offender who injured or killed another person.

Tim Gruenke, the La Crosse County District Attorney, says this would mean processing a lot more offenders through criminal courts and jails.

"I agree philosophically, that a first offense probably should be a crime," Gruenke said. "That would make sense, but you can't just do that without also giving people resources to prosecute the cases, process the cases and deal with those people once they come in to the court system. So while it might be a good idea, there's got to be some more resources attached to it to make it work."

Gruenke says bills like this have been proposed in the past, but logistically they have not panned out. The bills still have to go to be assigned to committees and public forms on the legislation must be held.

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