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Attorney General candidate draws heat for drunk driving ticket

Gilman Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio

A drunk driving citation from 24 years ago has become a hot topic in the race for state attorney general.

The Republican candidate in the race, Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel has acknowledged he got a drunk driving ticket in 1990. In a statement from his campaign manager Darrin Schmitz, Schimel says he made an error in judgment when he was 24 years old, but he pled guilty and took responsibility.

The statement includes a list of all the work Schimel has done as DA in establishing the county's alcohol pretreatment court and his roles as president of the Preventing Alcohol-Related Crashes Task Force.

One of Schimel’s two Democratic opponents in race, Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), says Schimel should have revealed his drunk driving record earlier. Richards called on Schimel to take a stronger stance on making first offense drunk driving a criminal offense.

“If he were convicted of drunk driving again, it would come up as a first offense – because right now in Wisconsin we expunge those records after 10 years,” says Richards. “We are changing that and we already voted to change that by a broad bipartisan vote in the Assembly, and I would call on him to join me in asking the Senate to take up that bill.”

Wisconsin is the only state in the country that treats first time drunk driving offenses as a traffic citation. Earlier this week, Schimel said changing that law would jam the court system. Like the current Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Schimel opposes increasing penalties for drunk drivers.

In a report coming out tomorrow, the national office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving gives Wisconsin only two out of the possible five stars in ranking the state’s progress in preventing drunk driving.