MILWAUKEE -- Two serial drunk drivers in Milwaukee County were arrested within days of each other -- accused of their ninth OWI offenses. The two cases beg the question -- how does someone even get to nine OWI arrests?
On July 14, a Franklin police officer encountered Dale Swenson pulled over on Ryan Road, trying to pick up his motorcycle. A criminal complaint states Swenson was "bleeding" and "unsteady." He told the officer he "missed a gear while shifting" and admitted to drinking a beer. Swenson blew a .198 BAC (blood alcohol content) -- nearly two-and-a-half times the legal limit.
Four days later on July 18, Phillip Jezak was booked in the Milwaukee County Jail for OWI -- just two days before he was scheduled to be sentenced for a March OWI arrest at 11th and Oklahoma in Milwaukee.
The two cases are not related -- except that Swenson and Jezak have each been convicted of eight prior OWIs. The offenses spanned the past three decades.
"Under no circumstance should anybody be able to collect nine drunk driving arrests. It's like, ridiculous. Ludicrous," Schmidt said.
The acting sheriff said the two crimes demonstrate the penalties and court-ordered treatment are not effective.
"So what do we need to change? Tougher laws. More jail time. Better AODA (alcohol and other drugs) counseling. All these things need to be looked at. The judicial system. The legislature. The judges. All those that are a part of it," Schmidt said.
Schmidt said the alternative is more injuries and deaths on the roads.
"It's the same as taking a gun, shooting it in a crowd and hoping you don't hit somebody. Fortunately this person didn't kill anyone. What happens when he reaches 10 or 11?" Schmidt said.
A fourth OWI offense is considered a felony in Wisconsin.
Swenson was sentenced for his eighth OWI in 2006. He received two-and-a-half years in prison followed by three years of extended supervision.
It is unclear what will happen with Jezak's sentencing for his eighth OWI.