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State law on repeat drunken driving not working well says report

Those with five drunken driving convictions in Wisconsin are supposed to go to prison.

But most don't - not in the state's largest county, at least.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that only 43 percent of the 161 Milwaukee County residents convicted of five-time OWI from 1999-2006 went to prison.

They averaged 18 months behind bars for their felonies. A quarter of the drunken drivers re-offended once or twice more.

That's not what the state Legislature had in mind when it cracked down on drunken driving nine years ago.

The idea was to get the most serious repeat offenders off the road.

Assembly Republican Jeff Stone of Greenfield says it's obvious the state needs to do more. The paper said the sentences varied greatly, according to the judges who handed them out.

Seventeen prisoners shaved time off their sentences by going to treatment or boot camp. And one was freed early just by asking a judge.

Madison Assembly Democrat Terese Berceau says the government needs to send a stronger message, and it appears it allows drunken driving to continue by looking the other way.

The report is part of the Journal Sentinel's "Wasted in Wisconsin" series, the second major newspaper series this year on the state's alcohol culture.

Gannett's "State of Drinking" took an in-depth look at the subject this summer.