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Senate committee approves court appearances for 1st offense OWI

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - All first-time drunk driving offenders would have to appear in court at least once, under a bill endorsed unanimously Thursday morning by a Wisconsin Senate panel.

The public safety committee sent the measure to the full Senate, after the Assembly approved it last November. It's among the anti-drunk driving bills authored by Assembly Republican Jim Ott of Mequon.

Wisconsin is the only state where first-time OWI is not a criminal offense. Civil citations are issued instead -- and they normally let people pay their fines without going to court.

But Ott and others say all OWI offenders should appear before judges, so they can appreciate the seriousness of what they've done.

Under Ott's bill, any drunk driving suspect who doesn't appear in court would automatically be found guilty, face a possible arrest, and be fined an extra $300 on top of other penalties.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)