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Penalties for OWI cases in Wisconsin

If you are convicted of an OWI, regardless of which number, will always come with a driver’s license revocation, fines, and an AODA assessment with follow-through treatment. With the exception of an OWI 1st offense where your blood alcohol concentration is under .15, you will also always be required to put an IID (ignition interlock device) in your vehicle. The amount of revocation time and ignition interlock device in the vehicle depends on the number of the offense as well as the amount of alcohol you had in your system at the time that you were driving. All criminal OWI offenses come with requisite jail time.

OWIs in Wisconsin

People say getting an OWI offense in Wisconsin is pretty much a rite of passage. However, this rite of passage can come with some pretty serious penalties that are not as minimal as you think they are.

You can be charged with an OWI if an officer believes that you were operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any sort of controlled substance. Alcohol is probably the most common source of impaired driving, followed closely by drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, or heroin. Other legally prescribed controlled substances can also be the source of an OWI if they make you unsafe to drive. Keep in mind that one of the more important elements of operating while under the influence is also the fact that you are operating on a public roadway. If you are operating your car or another motorized vehicle on your own property such as your driveway or a trail, as long as that roadway is not open to the public, you are not subject to charges for operating under the influence. 

One of the other technical issues in these types of cases is whether somebody is operating or driving that motor vehicle. Driving the motor vehicle is exactly what we think of when somebody gets pulled over after an officer usually sees them driving. However, the definition of operating is subject to interpretation and can mean a lot of things. As long as you have manipulated control of your vehicle, you are technically operating the vehicle under Wisconsin law. 

The third element of an OWI requires that a motorized vehicle is what was being operated. This is just as it sounds, the vehicle must be motorized. While you can likely get a ticket for disorderly conduct with a motor vehicle in Wisconsin if you are driving your bicycle and intoxicated, you cannot get charges for operating well under the influence in Wisconsin. Obviously, the most common form of OWI comes from drivers of cars, but we also see a large number of people driving under the influence on a motorcycle. Interestingly enough, a court in Wisconsin recently held that if you are driving your lawnmower as a method of transportation on a public roadway, this can also be a motorized vehicle. 

Through the process of an OWI investigation, an officer will ask you to get out of your vehicle so that he can administer field sobriety tests on you. Police should administer a series of three different tests. Those tests are known as the HGN, or horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the nine-step walk and turn, and the one-leg stand. These three tests are designed to look for signs of intoxication in drivers. They have been used in studies for subjects under the influence of alcohol. There are other tests that exist too rule out other controlled substances and may require a different type of officer to come and administer those types of tests.  

If once they have done the tests, police believe that there is sufficient probable cause to administer a preliminary breath test, they will likely do so on the side of the road. It is important to note that a breathalyzer administered on the side of the road is not admissible in court (learn more about refusing a breathalyzer test in WI). What is admissible in court is the breath test result from the intoximeter machine at the police department or through a blood test that they administer at the hospital. If you are given an intoximeter test, you should be given your results right away and you may be subject to an administrative suspension of your driver’s license. If a blood test is administered, it may take a few weeks for those blood test results to come back. If they are testing the blood for anything other than alcohol, those can take even longer. 

If you refuse to give a sample of your breath, blood, or urine, the police may obtain a search warrant to obtain a blood sample from you. If you refuse one of these tests, the police will give you paperwork entitled to notice of intent to revoke operating privileges. You must request a refusal hearing within 10 days of the incident in order to maintain your right to a refusal hearing. If not, the refusal shall be processed and the DOT will be forced to enforce the penalties of their refusal. The refusal on all levels will come with generally higher penalties than the OWI itself.



How long does an OWI stay on your record in Whitefish Bay?

OWIs stay on your record forever, and there is no way to remove them. A lot of other offenses have the opportunity for expungement to be sealed, but OWI cases are not eligible. They will remain on your driving record and criminal record forever.

How to beat an OWI charge in Glendale

There are many issues that can be reviewed in any OWI case and it is very important to hire an attorney that knows what they are looking for. It does not matter whether it is a first offense or a tenth offense, it is important to have an attorney. You are only guilty if you are convicted!

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Tom Grieve, the firm's managing attorney and founder, is a former state prosecutor and is not the only ex-prosecutor at the firm. We love hiring attorneys from both sides of the wall to bring as many perspectives to fight your case as aggressively as possible. The State of Wisconsin likes it when you choose the run-of-the-mill fee to plea™ lawyers who don't even know how to analyze and defend cases instead of experienced criminal attorneys:

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