Tearful testimony: Mother whose son was killed by drunk driver pushes for harsher OWI laws

MADISON -- Marla Hall, whose son was one of the Milwaukee accountants killed by a wrong-way drunk driver on Interstate 94 last fall, fought through tears to tell Wisconsin lawmakers to strengthen the state's OWI laws.

Marla Hall

Hall showed lawmakers during a committee hearing on Thursday, March 23rd that her son Clenton's wallet and Fitbit is all she got back from the crash scene.

"I'll never be the person I once was," Hall said. "He was my life and he still is my life, and I will continue the journey to make this not happen to others."

Lawmakers are considering three bills to strengthen the state's drunk driving laws. One tightens Wisconsin's ignition interlock requirement. Another imposes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for any homicide by OWI. The third requires that all fifth- and sixth-OWI offenders spend at least 18 months in prison.

Victims of wrong-way crash near Deerfield, WI

Brysen Wills, who's charged in connection with the crash that killed Hall, is awaiting trial in Dane County.

Clenton Hall

The crash, which happened on I-94 near Deerfield, also killed Katey Pasqualini and Kimberly Radtke and seriously injured Brian Falk. All of them worked at RitzHolman CPAs in Milwaukee.

The driver of another car was also killed.

Three parents of drunk driving victims, including Hall, testified before the Assembly's Criminal Justice committee on Thursday. Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol and Blue Mounds Police Chief Andrew Rose also endorsed the three bills.

State Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, raised concerns that the state Department of Corrections had not been asked to provide an estimate for what the longer sentences would cost the state.

"This bill, by my estimate, would increase the need by more than $20 million a year," Goyke said.

State Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, said Goyke's numbers were overblown because many people who are convicted of fifth and sixth offenses already face 18 months in prison. He said his legislation was aimed at stopping the cases where a drunk driver gets a far more lenient sentence.

Goyke also predicted that some people wouldn't be able to afford the ignition interlock device, which can cost more than $1,000 for the year between the initial payment and the monthly cost to rent the device.

"Well, then don't drive drunk and you won't have to put up with the inconvenience and the expense," Ott responded.

The Wisconsin Tavern League has endorsed all three of the bills. The Tavern League has opposed some efforts to strengthen Wisconsin's drunk driving laws in the past.