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NEWS STORIES

Lincoln Co. to Try New Method For Repeat OWI OffendersSubmitted: 11/14/2012
Story By Lyndsey Stemm

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MERRILL - Statistics show Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of drunken driving in the nation. That's why Lincoln County wants to take steps to tackle a growing problem: repeat OWIs.

Almost one third of all OWI arrests nationwide are for repeat offenders. The average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before their first arrest.

It's a problem Lincoln County Judge Jay Tlusty is trying to battle with an OWI court.

Treatment court is something more and more counties across the country are trying.

Lincoln County averages 169 drunk driving arrests every year. Judge Tlusty says a good number of those are repeat offenders.

"Not only would this save money and the judicial resources that are used on it, but also hopefully someday prevent an accident where someone is on a repeat drunk driving situation," says Judge Tlusty.

Criminal DUI convictions already often come with alcohol abuse assessment requirements. But Judge Tlusty says this would be more intensive and their progress would be followed by the court.

"It's part of their sentence that they would be participating in this program if that's something they're prepared to participate in," says Judge Tlusty.

Start up costs will be covered by left over funds from a program that was cut earlier this year.

Judge Tlusty hopes the program will be up and running by spring.

Marathon, Price and Taylor Counties have started these programs and have seen some success. Judge Tlusty says success can be hard to measure.

"The one thing you can't measure is the negative, the things that did not happen because of this. You can't measure the accident that didn't happen, the injury that didn't happen, the death that didn't happen. You can't measure that," says Judge Tlusty.

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