WJI is taking a look at justice-related bills adopted during the 2019-20 session.
2019 Act 106 – This act increases incarceration time for fifth or sixth offense drunk driving from six months to 18 months. The new law, however, allows a judge to impose a shorter sentence if the judge finds that a shorter sentence is in the interests of the community and that the community will not be harmed. The judge must also state on the record the reasons for those findings.
The law was introduced as Senate Bill 6. The companion bill was Assembly Bill 16.
The lead authors of SB 6 were Senators Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Kathleen Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls).
The lead co-sponsors were State Representatives Jim Ott (R-Mequon) and Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago).
The bill was approved in the Assembly by an 88-10 roll call vote. Voting against it were Representatives Jill Billings (D-LaCrosse), Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee), Dave Considine (D-Baraboo), David Crowley (D-Milwaukee), Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire), Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield), Greta Neubauer (D-Racine), Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee) and Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit).
State Rep. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) either did not vote or was not present.
The Senate approved the bill without a roll call.
Gov. Evers signed the new law Feb. 28, 2020.
Department of Corrections – $13,608,100 annually.
On average, in the years 2016-2018, 438 people convicted of fifth- or sixth-offense drunk driving were placed on probation, though it is not known how many were ordered to serve jail time as a condition of their sentences. Another 343 were sentenced to prison, for an average of 20 months each.
The department's calculation assumes that all 438 people placed on probation would instead be sentenced to 18 months in prison, and the 343 sentenced to prison would be sentenced to 18 months.
The estimate takes into account the 8% annual decline in conviction rates for those crimes the state experienced from 2013 to 2017.
The annual cost estimate includes funding for new substance abuse programming and contracted jail beds, which the department anticipates using because state prisons are crowded beyond capacity.
The estimate does not include any estimates for community supervision costs related to the bill.
Courts – Undetermined.
District Attorneys – Undetermined. In 2017, there were 404 convictions for OWI fifth offense and 177 convictions for OWI sixth offense.
Responsive district attorneys generally cited the belief that any increase in mandatory minimums in proposed legislation decreases the District Attorneys ability to resolve cases with plea agreements, reduces the Judge's discretion at sentencing and increases the likelihood that the defendant will contest his/her guilt at trial or via a pre-trial motion. Motion practice and jury trials consume significantly more prosecutorial resources and time than resolving matters via plea agreement. The number of additional cases that would be calendared for litigation rather than plea as a result of this legislation is unknown. Responsive district attorneys further note that this change would also affect the ability to utilize treatment courts for fifth- and sixth-offense offenders which have borne fruit in reducing drunk driving recidivism.
Department of Justice – An additional assistant attorney general likely would be needed to handle increased appeals.
Department of Transportation – None.
State Public Defender's Office – May be a slight cost increase because of additional trials.
Darling – It is my hope Senate Bill 6 will deter individuals from getting behind the wheel intoxicated by increasing the mandatory minimum to 18 months in prison. With the expansion of treatment and diversion programs and other alternatives, it is my hope that Senate Bill 6 will never have to be used.
Ott – Those who chronically commit OWI are a menace on the roads, and a stiffer mandatory minimum would send a strong message that we will not tolerate this behavior, and keep chronic offenders off the road for a longer period of time.
Registering for the bill: AAA Wisconsin, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association.
Registering against the bill: No one.
Registering as "other" position: Tavern League of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Professional Police Association.
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