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Price tag to make Wisconsin's drunken-driving laws tougher is in millions

It would cost millions to make Wisconsin's drunk driving laws tougher. But Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney says it would be worth it, considering the human costs of OWI.

The Legislature created the Joint Review Committee on criminal penalties to find out the costs of drunken driving reforms, and Mahoney is a member of that panel.

At a recent hearing, the committee heard how much it would cost to make three-and four-time OWI a felony.

State court officials said eight more circuit judges would needed, since more people would fight their charges to avoid going to prison. That cost alone would be $2.1 million a year.

Twenty-one more prosecutors could be needed, costing $1 million a year. The Justice Department says it would need 20 more lawyers to handle an expected one-thousand new appeals.

And the crime labs would need two more toxicologists to handle more blood tests, and to testify against defendants in court trials.

There would also be added costs in housing more prisoners.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, says there are 15 different bills that would get tougher on drunken drivers.

She says the problem must be addressed, but in what she calls a "smart way."