Wisconsin moves to toughen reckless driving penalties

Penalties in Wisconsin for reckless driving and carjacking would increase under Republican-backed bills approved by the Legislature
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 7:56 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 4:02 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Penalties for reckless driving and carjacking would increase under Republican-authored bills that the Wisconsin Legislature approved Wednesday.

Supporters say they are responding to increased incidents of reckless driving and carjacking, primarily in Milwaukee.

The Senate passed a bill, on a bipartisan 23-8 vote, increasing penalties for carjacking. The measure now heads to the Assembly.

The Senate also voted 30-1 to pass a bill that would allow police to impound a repeat reckless driver's vehicle. The Assembly followed suit later Wednesday afternoon, approving the legislation on an 85-12 vote.

The bill goes next to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who can sign it into law or veto it.

The Assembly also approved a bill Wednesday that would double the fine and forfeiture ranges for reckless driving and subsequent offenses. The maximum forfeiture for a first offense would increase to $400. The maximum fine for a subsequent offense would increase to $1,000.

The maximum fine for reckless driving that causes bodily harm would increase to $4,000. Causing great bodily harm by driving recklessly would be punishable by up to six years in prison. The current maximum sentence is three-and-a-half years.

The Assembly passed the bill with another 85-12 vote, sending it to the Senate.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bob Donovan, a Republican from Greenfield, said in written remarks submitted to the Assembly public safety committee that the Milwaukee Police Department issued 497 citations for reckless driving in 2022. That is up 32% from 2021.

Evers told reporters during a stop in Milwaukee on Wednesday that he looks forward to signing both the impoundment and enhanced penalty bills.