A proposal to penalize third- and fourth-offense drunken drivers the way five-time offenders are now punished would cost Wisconsin $100 million or more a year, says a report quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Such a change would send nearly 3,000 more offenders each year to the state’s overcrowded prison system, boosting the Department of Corrections’ costs by $99 million to $145 million a year, says the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. About $4.6 million more also would be needed each year to pay for additional judges, prosecutors, and public defenders.
The analysis does not take into account potential savings state, said Kari Kinnard of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Strengthening the drunken-driving law could have a deterrent effect and bring savings through lower car insurance premiums and health care costs, she said. Rep. Joel Kleefisch embraced the idea of making a third drunken-driving offense a felony after a crash last year that killed a woman, 39, her unborn child, and her 10-year-old daughter. The driver of the other vehicle had been sentenced two days earlier to 75 days in jail for a third drunken-driving offense.