Searches following an OWI
Following a decision by the Court of Appeals last week, it will now be reasonable for police to believe that evidence of alcohol or drug use will be present in the vehicle once someone is arrested for an OWI. This is a BIG deal. Although it is something the Supreme Court of Wisconsin will likely review, for now police can search your car after they arrest you for an OWI, and anything they find can legally be used as evidence.
Intoxicated Possession Charges
Alcohol or drugs can fit in very small containers, so police will usually search whatever they can. A bottle of alcohol may not fit in a coin holder, but drugs might, so police will look. Anything in your vehicle is fair game. This means not only alcohol and drugs, but firearms and other weapons, whether you have them legally or not. This can lead to additional charges, and a non-criminal OWI can turn into an intoxicated possession of a firearm charge felony gun case pretty quickly.
Before this case was decided, police had to have a reason to believe there would be evidence relevant to the OWI in the vehicle. For example, if police approached the vehicle and saw an open liquor bottle on the floor, or the driver admitted to drinking while behind the wheel, the police may have had reasonable grounds to search the rest of the car. Now, the Court of Appeals has created a bright line rule that affects every OWI arrest.
You are only guilty if you are convicted™