Janesville32.5°

Walworth County OWI cases on the rise

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
July 25, 2009
— Felony charges of operating while intoxicated seem to be on the rise in Walworth County, an assistant district attorney said Friday.

Steven Madson, the prosecutor in charge of most of the county’s OWI cases, said the apparent increase in cases in recent years has to do with how many years have passed since Wisconsin’s cutoff for calculating a person’s number of offenses.


State law says the cutoff for OWI records is 1989, and offenses before that cannot be used to calculate a person’s number of OWIs.


So as time passes, Madson said, “it’s becoming more common as people pick up more offenses.”


On Friday, 41-year-old David J. Betts of Elkhorn was sentenced to seven years in prison for his latest two OWI charges, the most recent being his seventh offense.


Betts previously served jail time for crashing an airplane into power lines in the River West neighborhood in Milwaukee while intoxicated.


Betts’ sentence will be followed by seven years of extended supervision and three years of probation for two bail-jumping charges. The new charges were filed after Betts attempted to visit an inmate at the Walworth County Jail on April 29 while drunk, according to the criminal complaint.


Ralph E. Mullen, 51, of Genoa City was also sentenced by Judge James Carlson on Friday morning. He was sentenced for his fifth OWI since 1989 and his 10th offense overall. He will spend three years in state prison followed by three years of extended supervision.


Both Betts and Mullen are required to go through treatment and will have their licenses


revoked. They may eligible for early release if they successfully complete rehabilitation.


The idea, Madson said, is to use “the carrot and the stick.”


“Jail alone and treatment alone don’t work,” Madson said.


The first four OWI offenses are not felonies in Wisconsin under normal circumstances. Anything beyond that becomes a felony charge and could also generate bail-jumping charges because most OWI cases have bail conditions of no contact with alcohol.



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