OWI legislation could require blood draws for first offense

LEDGEVIEW, Wis. (WBAY)- A big change regarding those stopped for a first offense OWI will soon go before state lawmakers.

That change would allow court commissioners to issue search warrants for blood draws, something they can't do right now except in criminal cases.

In Wisconsin a first offense OWI is simply a traffic offense and not a crime, which is why State Rep. Andre Jacque wants to ensure those pulled over have to submit to a blood draw.

"Other means of testing blood alcohol content are just simply not as accurate, and this is a way of really providing indisputable evidence so you can ascertain whether somebody really had a prohibited alcohol concentration or not," said Jacque, a De Pere Republican.

Right now court commissioners only have the power to issue search warrants for a blood draw on a second offense OWI or higher.

Wisconsin is the only state in the country where a first offense OWI is still just a traffic offense and not a crime.

Groups like MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving, say way too often people decline to cooperate with a blood draw.

"In Wisconsin in 2008, the refusal rate of suspected drunk drivers, only about 7.8 percent actually refused a chemical test, but in 2013 it was nearly 15 percent of people refused a chemical test who were suspected of drunk driving," said Frank Harris, MADD's Director of State Government Affairs.

Jacque added, "When you have the proof of the actual level of blood alcohol concentration it leads to a smoother court process, generally able to get people into treatment quicker without kind of prolonging having more high stakes prosecutions essentially."

The bill is likely to have bipartisan support and is expected to be assigned to a committee by next week.