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FDL driver gets fifth OWI arrest, as sheriff's department, community work to keep roads safe

Highway 151 Fond du Lac
Posted at 6:07 PM, Nov 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-24 13:18:03-05
  • A driver was arrested in Fond du Lac County on what could be his fifth OWI conviction.
  • The Fond du Lac County Sheriff's Department urges safe driving around the holidays.
  • Local taverns offer "SafeRide" program to keep patrons off the roads after drinking.

A Milwaukee driver was arrested in Fond du Lac County on what the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office said could be his fifth OWI.
The sheriff’s office said the driver has two OWI convictions on record, and was out on bail for two additional OWI arrests when he was arrested for driving while intoxicated in Fond du Lac County.

“I would say it is out of the ordinary, however we have seen in recent years an uptake of multiple repeat offenders for OWI violations and offenses,” said Lt. Chris Dobyns with the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Department.

The sheriff's department said a deputy observed a vehicle making what they call an unsafe lane change exiting I-41 onto Highway 151 and then running a red light.

The department says a deputy tried to stop the vehicle, but the driver continued, causing an 8-mile chase. The driver, a 22-year-old from Milwaukee, was then arrested.

This case is still under investigation, but Dobyns said generally, the department sees an uptick in arrests related to holiday travel.

“Holidays are so associated with the social gatherings and sometimes you know, alcohol goes hand-in-hand with those social gatherings,” Dobyns said.

OWI penalties in Wisconsin depend on a number of factors. But generally, a first OWI offense is a civil infraction punishable by a $150-$300 dollar fine.

The second OWI offense is a criminal misdemeanor with a $350 to $1,100 fine and five days to six months of confinement. A third OWI offense is also a misdemeanor with a $600 to $2,000 fine and 45 days to one year of confinement. The fourth offense is a felony with a $600 to $10,000 fine and 60 days to six years of confinement.

The fifth and sixth offenses can carry a $25,000 fine and result in six months to 10 years in jail.

Local bars say they have ways of keeping drunk drivers off the roads—through the “SafeRide” program for patrons unable to drive home.

“If they have a little too much, or if they feel like they don't want to drive home, then they just ask the bartender for a safe ride,” said Michelle Kahlhamer, a bartender at RamJets Tavern in Fond du Lac. “And then the bartender will fill out this form and call the cab company and then when the cab gets here, then they go on their way. “

Bar patrons who drove to a bar can get this ride home free of charge.

“This time of year, you don't want to be missing your loved ones,” Kalhamer said.

Many other local bars use this Safe Ride Home Program, and patrons can use it by asking their bartender.

The sheriff’s department also urges anyone who witnesses unsafe driving to contact law enforcement.