Wisconsin’s Dubious “Honor”

Just two weeks ago, the federal government released results of a study it completed regarding the frequency of drunk driving in Wisconsin. According to the study, more than 25% of adults in Wisconsin drive under the influence of alcohol, putting Wisconsin at number one in the nation when it comes to people who admit to driving drunk.

Fresh off the heels of that report being released came the terrible tragedy of Jennifer Bukosky, who along with two of her children was killed by Mark Benson. At the time of the accident that killed Bukosky, Benson was driving without a license and while under the influence of at least three different prescribed medications, and only two days before the crash, Benson had been in court pleading guilty to a 2007 drunken driving conviction, his third, in Brookfield. He was ordered April 23 to not drive and was sentenced to 75 days in the county’s work release jail, but was given until May 9 to report there.

The fact that Benson was still driving despite having just been convicted of his third OWI is simply outrageous, but thankfully lawmakers are already starting to take notice that Wisconsin is at a crossroads when it comes to how we handle repeat drunk drivers. Today Governor Jim Doyle announced that he believes a third conviction for intoxicated use of a vehicle should be made a felony. Lawmakers have already started to take action, with some calling for revocation of driving privileges and confiscation of vehicles for people convicted of a third offense of driving under the influence.

I’ve always felt Wisconsin needed to do a much better job of being tough on drunk drivers, especially repeat offenders, because a car isn’t much different than a loaded gun in the hands of a drunk driver. People can be – and have been – seriously injured or killed at the hands of folks driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and it’s time lawmakers took a tough stand. I’ve never been a strong advocate of depriving folks of property as the result of their criminal activities, but in this case I think someone who’s been convicted multiple times for drunk driving should face the possibility of losing their vehicle forever. It’s a steep price to pay, but perhaps it’ll serve as a deterrent.

Patrick over at Badger Blogger has more on this issue, as does Cindy over at Fairly Conservative


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7 thoughts on “Wisconsin’s Dubious “Honor”

  1. Yeah, see there’s this problem with taking away people’s cars. It’s called the Fifth Amendment. To wit: “No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” In other words, I’m pretty sure you’d have to pay them for the car.

  2. Sam, I don’t proclaim to be an expert on the ins and outs of Wisconsin’s state code, but how would codifying the seizure of a vehicle from a repeat drunk driver differ from the seizure of a car from a drug dealer?

  3. Because the drug dealer’s car was bought with funds obtained illegally via his drug trade, making his car seizable. Unless the drunk driver’s car is somehow itself a product of the drunk driving, the same cannot be said. I’m sure there’s some other way around it, but I don’t know what it is.

  4. Actually Sam, I think it’s more about the car being used in the commission of the crime, not the fact that it was bought with the proceeds of said crime. In fact, there are already laws on the books that allow for the seizure of cars and boats used in the commission of any violation of any of the laws for which the department and its wardens have enforcement authority under s. 29.921:

    (a) The department and its wardens shall seize and hold, subject to the order of the court for the county in which the alleged offense was committed, any vehicle , boat or object declared by this chapter to be a public nuisance, or which they have probable cause to believe is being used in violation of any of the laws for which the department and its wardens have enforcement authority under s. 29.921. If it is proven that the vehicle , boat or object is a public nuisance or that within 6 months previous to the seizure the vehicle , boat or object was used in violation of any of the laws for which the department and its wardens have enforcement authority under s. 29.921, it shall be confiscated if the court directs in its order for judgment.

    Further, here’s the section relating to drug offenses:

    (1) The following are subject to forfeiture:

    (d) All vehicles which are used, or intended for use, to transport, or in any manner to facilitate the transportation, for the purpose of sale or receipt of property described in pars. (a) and (b) or for the purpose of transporting any property or weapon used or to be used or received in the commission of any felony under this chapter, but:

    I’m thinking that if there are laws already on the books – and presumably they’ve withstood challenges in court – then it shouldn’t be that big a deal to put similar laws on the books for drunk driving.

  5. Having lived on lakes in the past I know that even the DNR can take your boat or vehicle away if you are hunting/fishing illegally in sever cases such as shooting at Bald Eagles.

  6. Thanks to everyone who has responded to this site and the Badger Blogger. Needless to say Judy and I agree with everyone’thogths about judge Davis and Mark Benson. As jenn’s parents we encourage everyone to go to her website http://www.jenniferbukosky.com sign the petition and with your address send an email to your legislator.

    Thanks again to everyone

    Paul & Judy Jenkins
    Jenn’s parents

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