Local officials say harsher OWI offenses would impact taxpayers, jails and district attorney

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WAUSAU (WAOW) – State lawmakers are looking to make first OWI offenses a criminal charge, instead of a civil violation, but concerns are being raised.

Local officials say the change could heavily impact taxpayers.

They also say jails could be affected with the extra inmates.

“Right now we’re so overcrowded that to house someone in the facility essentially on an OWI number one, is going to be very difficult,” Jail Administrator Sandra La Du said.

The district attorney’s office could be impacted as well since they would see an increase in cases.

“We have one person that does traffic and we may have to allocate some of her services to other attorneys because it might at some point become too much for one person to handle,” said Marathon County Assistant District Attorney Sidney Brubacher. “Then it would trickle down to the other attorneys who are already working pretty hard.”

Officials say bringing in more attorneys to help isn’t really an option because they have to “absorb the workload with who we have.”

The Assistant District Attorney Sidney Brubacher said the extra costs will fall onto the county, state and taxpayers.

This proposed bill comes after more than twenty-thousand people were convicted of drunk driving in Wisconsin in 2015, according to the Department of Transportation.

Currently, Wisconsin is the only state handing out civil violations instead of criminal charges to first time OWI offenders.

The legislature hasn’t voted on the bill yet.

Ally Wallenta

Ally Wallenta

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