OWI offense case brought to a Jury on appeal: reduced charges
I had a client facing an OWI 1st charge in Lake County Municipal Court. The case started in Municipal Court and eventually was appealed to the Waukesha County Circuit Court. In Municipal court we took the case to trial as my client was found to be under the legal limit and lost control of his vehicle on a patch of ice. The Judge, however, found that despite the fact that my client was under the legal limit and that an Officer testified to ice being present on the road way, he was impaired while he was driving. In Wisconsin, when facing an OWI, typically you will be facing two charges: 1. Operating While Impaired and 2. Operating with a Prohibited Alcohol Concentration, because my client was under the legal limit he was only facing the OWI not the Prohibited Alcohol Concentration.
After being found guilty at the Municipal court we appealed his case for two main reasons. First, we believed that if the case was before a Jury instead of just a judge, which is all you are entitled to at the municipal court level, the outcome might be different. Second, when questioning the officer who administered field sobriety tests to my client he was unable to indicate what clues he was looking for or what constituted a failure on the test.
Following our appeal, I filed a motion on behalf of my client. The motion was to suppress the alcohol test results because they were close to the legal limit and the City Attorney would attempt to show that with the result being close it makes it more likely than not that my client was impaired. The motion focused on the fact that the officer did not have probable cause to arrest my client. I argued that he lacked probably cause because of his testimony at trial in municipal court. The officer did not know what clues he was looking for, he did not how many clues there could be, nor did he know how many clues it took to indicate impairment. In this case there was no video so we had to rely on the officer’s testimony, however, I did have a recording of the municipal trial. In my motion I referred directly to sections of the trial on the testimony that the officer had given.
As the motion date approached the City Attorney reached out to me and offered to resolve the case with a non-OWI ticket. After discussing the case with my client we decided that was in his best interests. He went from being convicted of an OWI offense, making any second offense a criminal offense for which he would be facing jail, to resolving the case with a simple ticket based on the motion we filed.