Wisconsin OWI Court – Great Idea! Here’s How to Do It.

Wisconsin OWI Court - great ideaLike many people in Wisconsin, officials in Brown County are fed up with the state’s high levels of drunk driving. In particular, the number of multiple offenders who are arrested with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) well over twice the legal limit is shocking: a county chief judge found that almost half of 4th offenders had a BAC of .20 or over. The legal limit for intoxication is .08.

Clearly, levying the same punishments over and over again isn’t working for some hard-core repeat OWI offenders. So very wisely, judge Donald Zuidmulder wants to set up a program targeted at 4th OWI offenders because of the obvious risk they pose to public safety.

OWI Court – The Right Way to Go

When you have been arrested four times for driving with a high level of alcohol in your body, chances are  you have a serious drinking problem, one which needs to be addressed if you are ever going to stop driving drunk. OWI court, sometimes called sobriety court, is a solution that calls up resources from different areas – treatment professionals, law enforcement, and the legal system – to ensure that an offender deals with the underlying problem causing the drunk driving.

Generally an offender will have a supervisor assigned to his or her case. That supervisor will ensure that the offender goes to treatment sessions and makes progress while refraining from impaired driving.

The Magic Bullet: OWI Court Plus Ignition Interlocks

Michigan found a solution that has enjoyed great success: adding an ignition interlock requirement to sobriety court, and monitoring the results as part of the program. A supervisor gets the data reports from the interlock every month, and can check if any attempts have been made to drive drunk.

A recap of the benefits of the ignition interlock/sobriety court combination:

  • Court supervision ensures compliance with the interlock requirement. In non-supervised settings, a large percentage of offenders don’t comply with the interlock order.
  • The interlock ensures that an offender retains driving privileges, and can therefore get to treatment
  • The expense of incarceration is avoided.
  • Offenders can maintain or improve their employment situation, which would not be possible without the interlock and supervision.

In fact, the Michigan court system was so impressed with the sobriety court/ignition interlock combination that they issued a report praising the measure.

The ignition interlock/sobriety court combination has been a winner in Michigan. It could be a winner in Wisconsin as well. Kudos to Judge Zuidmulder for looking beyond the old solutions that weren’t working. If OWI court is adopted in Brown County, it could become an example for the rest of Wisconsin, which has a long way to go in dealing with its stubborn drunk driving problem.