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Drunken Driving Extraordinary Session

On December 16, both houses of the Legislature will convene for the purpose of voting on drunken driving reform legislation. In recent months, both houses have passed similar, but differing bills seeking to combat drunken driving. The authors in both houses have now agreed on a unified piece of legislation. Among the changes the bill would make to current law include:

-Makes fourth offense OWI a felony if the offender has an OWI conviction in the previous five-year period.

-Criminalizes first-time OWI offenses if a child under age 16 is present in the vehicle.

-Expands the pilot Winnebago County Safe Streets Program statewide, which directs certain offenders to probation and treatment programs in exchange for a reduced sentence.

-Requires Ignition Interlock Devices for all repeat offenders and first-time offenders with a Blood Alcohol Content of .15 or above. This device works by requiring the operator of a vehicle to blow into a breathalyzer-like sensor that is integrated into a vehicle’s ignition system. If the motorist has consumed alcohol, the vehicle will not start.

-Increases the court fees paid by convicted offenders from $20 to $163 and raises the license reinstatement fee from $50 to $200 for those whose licenses are suspended or revoked for a drunken driving-related offense. These fee increases are projected to raise $15 million a year to pay for the various aspects of the bill.

The proposal to increase the liquor tax, which at one time was part of the Senate version of this bill, is no longer part of the legislation.