State Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, said he is proposing a mandatory minimum sentence for homicide OWI because he hears of too many drunken drivers who serve little time after killing someone.
Ott discussed his legislation to toughen drunken driving penalties on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
Ott is sponsoring a bill that would set a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for an impaired driver who causes a fatal crash.
“Homicide OWI we are not talking about mitigating circumstances, ” Ott said. “We’re talking about the drunk driver crosses the center line and hits an oncoming car head on, or goes through a red light and broadsides an automobile.”
Ott said maximum penalties, which can be 25 to 40 years depending on the circumstances, are not the problem and that judges are imposing long sentences. But Ott said there are still cases where a driver in a fatal crash gets a light sentence.
“I’ve heard testimony in the past that sometimes people get as little as a year or two incarceration for killing someone, devastating a family? I don’t think that’s right,” Ott said.
Ott also wants to increase mandatory minimum sentences for fifth and sixth offense OWI from sixth months to 18 months.
“Is six months in jail a sufficient deterrent to that kind of behavior? I think not,” Ott said.
Ott has another bill that he says would close what is known as the “ignition interlock loophole,” to make the law more enforceable.
Ott said he believes there will be a deterrent effect in making sentences tougher. He also said that “down the line,” he would like to make third offense OWI a felony in Wisconsin.
“Right now, it’s a criminal misdemeanor, and I think that would send a strong message to someone, that you offend once, then twice, next time it’s a felony. I think that would have a deterrent effect,” he said.
Also on the program, state Rep. Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, discussed his personal experience with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Anderson said he was in a 2010 car crash in California, caused by a drunken driver that killed his parents and younger brother, and left him paralyzed.
“It was, I don’t know how else to put it, the hardest thing I ever had to go through,” he said.
Anderson said the cost of his treatment, which included placing steel in his spine to allow him to hold his head upright, was huge.
“After that, my health insurance company told me I was nearing my lifetime maximums, and that I was going to have to handle the rest of my health care expenses,” he said.
“With hundreds of thousands of dollars still left to go, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was scared, terrified. I was just a student. I didn’t have that kind of money,” he said.
Soon after, Anderson said, provisions of the ACA took effect and eliminated lifetime maximums.
“My wife and I were incredibly relieved,” he said.
“It was, to be able to know that I was going to be able to get the care that I needed to kind of put my life back together, it was a glimmer of hope that I needed to keep going,” he said.
See more from the program: