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Our View: Don't allow OWI records to be purged
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State Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, is on yet another mission to limit public information. This time, it involves records regarding drunken driving convictions.

Schneider is the Assemblyman who has tried repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, to restrict the general public's access to the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access site (CCAP). He believes that because landlords and employers may occasionally misuse the information available on the site, that it should be limited to accredited journalists, court officials, law enforcement personnel, attorneys and people who use court documents in their jobs. Thankfully, the Legislature has not yet endorsed Schneider's attempts to cut off public records from the public.

He's trying again in a different matter.

Schneider is reintroducing a bill that would purge all records of drunken-driving convictions and driver's license suspensions or revocations caused by those convictions after 10 years, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Sunday. Schneider said current law requires that notations of many first-offense OWIs and repeat violations must stay on a driver's record for a lifetime.

"I think that's way too long," Schneider told the Journal-Sentinel. "There's no forgiveness anymore. I don't see any reason to punish somebody for their entire life."

Family and friends of victims of drunken drivers would beg to differ, of course. And, for that matter, a public record isn't about forgiveness or punishment. It merely is information that the public has a right to have access to.

Schneider notes that there is little chance his legislation will pass. It has only two other sponsors - Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, and Sen. Alan Lasee, R-De Pere.

"It'll be tougher sledding than ever," Schneider told the Journal-Sentinel. "Everybody is hellbent to get tough on drunk driving."

As Wisconsin legislators should. The state is a national leader in drunken driving, and its laws are notoriously lenient on the crime. Hopefully, the Legislature will not be in the practice of forgiving drunken drivers. It should be making stricter laws and punishments, and the atmosphere seems to be conducive.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving opposes Schneider's bill. Heidi Castle, the national group's vice president for communications told the Journal-Sentinel that, "We view OWI as a violent crime. Any OWI arrest should be on the record."

For that matter, any arrest should be on the record. Schneider's latest attempt to chisel away at the public record should be as unsuccessful as his past efforts.