OWI fines hefty, but deterrence effect debated

Oshkosh Police Dept.
File photo.

OSHKOSH (AP) – The fine for a first drunken-driving offense, including court costs and surcharges, can be as high as $1,000. But industry experts are questioning whether heavy fines serve as effective enough deterrents.

A Northwestern Media report says the actual fine ranges from $150 to $300. But court costs can add $600 to $700.

Nina Emerson is a former director of the Resource Center for Impaired Driving at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She says a hefty fine is a “hollow threat.” She says options like sobriety checkpoints are what get people’s attention.

Democratic state Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee says fines play an important role in deterring drunken drivers. He says it’s just one part of the deterrence effort, and he’d like to see overall penalties get tougher.

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