In Wisconsin, intoxicated firearm possession is a Class A misdemeanor that could result in up to a $10,000 fine and/or a prison term not to exceed 9 months. This charge is often paired with OWI (Operating While Intoxicated - 1st offense, or 2nd offense OWI) which under some circumstances is a felony.
Intoxicated Firearm Possession Endangering Safety Per Wisconsin Statute 941.20
Fines & Penalties for Firearm Possession While Intoxicated: What You Need to Know
If you are caught carrying or operating a gun while under the influence of an intoxicant (such as alcohol, marijuana, or restricted controlled substances), you could be facing life-changing penalties. Under the influence means, in this case, drinking enough alcohol to impair the clear judgment and steady hand needed to safely handle a firearm. The charge is “Endangering Safety by Use of a Dangerous Weapon While Intoxicated” 941.20(1) (b). You are only guilty if you are convicted.
941.20 Endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon.
(1) Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor:
(a) Endangers another's safety by the negligent operation or handling of a dangerous weapon.
(b) Operates or goes armed with a firearm while he or she is under the influence of an intoxicant.
(bm) Operates or goes armed with a firearm while he or she has a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in his or her blood. A defendant has a defense to any action under this paragraph that is based on the defendant allegedly having a detectable amount of methamphetamine, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in his or her blood if he or she proves by a preponderance of the evidence that at the time of the incident or occurrence he or she had a valid prescription for methamphetamine or one of its metabolic precursors, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.
(c) Except as provided in sub. (1m), intentionally points a firearm at or toward another.
(d) While on the lands of another discharges a firearm within 100 yards of any building devoted to human occupancy situated on and attached to the lands of another without the express permission of the owner or occupant of the building. “Building" as used in this paragraph does not include any tent, bus, truck, vehicle or similar portable unit.
Intoxicated possession of a firearm is a Class A misdemeanor in Wisconsin, punishable by:
- Up to nine months in jail
- Up to a $10,000 fine
- Or both
But even if you never touched your firearm how can they still charge you?
How Gun Charges Get Paired with Drunk Driving
Most people who are facing this charge were pulled over and arrested for drunk driving. At some point during the interaction with the officer they probably were very cooperative and told the officer they have a concealed carry permit and that their firearm was in the glove box, center console, or perhaps under the seat. As a reward for their honesty, they will likely face the additional charge, which can land them jail time. This is because of Wisconsin’s “constructive possession” law. What constructive possession means is that even if you were never physically touching something, if you were aware of its presence and if it was within reach or “lunging distance,” then it is legally the same as actually touching it. Even if you did not touch the firearm while you were intoxicated and had no intention of touching the firearm while intoxicated, you can still be charged as though you were physically in possession of the firearm while intoxicated. Doesn't sound fair, does it?
OWI Charge + Concealed Carry Violation = Penalties
If you are carrying a gun in the glovebox and you tell the officer there is no gun, you can be charged with obstruction of justice. Whether this charge will stick is something you should consult a criminal defense lawyer about.
If you have a gun in the car, first offense OWI, is it a felony?
If you are arrested for an OWI offense and you are found to have a firearm in your vehicle, you could face charges of Intoxicated Possession of a Firearm (sometimes called Endangering Safety By Use of a Dangerous Weapon) which is a class A misdemeanor. It carries up to 9 months in jail and a $10,000 fine upon conviction. You could also be required to forfeit the firearm found in your vehicle.
Disorderly Conduct (Armed with a Dangerous Weapon) Charges
Disorderlies can be somewhat of a catch-all charge. Whether you are within your rights as a concealed carry permit holder is something to ask about in your free initial consultation.
Wisconsin Law and How It Plays Out
We won't question how law enforcement and prosecutors around the state are choosing to exercise their discretion. However, over the last few years, various District Attorney’s Offices have begun charging people criminally under exactly these kinds of circumstances.
If you or someone you know is facing intoxicated possession of a firearm charge, it is crucial for you to hire a law firm that is familiar with handling these types of cases. It is important to know what can and cannot be accomplished from a negotiation perspective, as well as where the weak points in these cases are from a legal and factual perspective. We have fought and won gun cases before, and we have also forced these cases to be dismissed as a result of illegal searches. Best advice: hire a law firm with a winning record. There's no reason for bail jumping when Grieve is on your side.
Tom Grieve is an experienced gun attorney and zealous 2nd amendment advocate with offices in Madison & Milwaukee. He helps Wisconsin gun owners with:
Wisconsin criminal defense attorney Tom Grieve represents clients charged with an OWI and concealed carry. To learn more about the charges you're facing, contact Grieve Law as soon as possible.
In Wisconsin, how long does an Intoxicated Firearm Possession charge stay on your record?
If someone in Wisconsin drinks at 2 a.m. at a bar or 1 p.m. out in public while possessing a gun, they could be charged with intoxicated firearm possession, which could remain on their record for life.
How to Fight Intoxicated Firearm Possession Charges
If you have been charged with endangering the safety of others due to possessing a firearm while intoxicated, it is important to seek out a trusted criminal defense lawyer who’s knowledgeable on these types of charges, fast.
No criminal defense law firm in Wisconsin can match Grieve Law’s record of dropping or reducing charges. Grieve Law has experience and strategic defense strategies to help fight your intoxicated firearm possession charge.
Tom Grieve is recognized among the top lawyers in Milwaukee. He has recently been chosen as a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” in Wisconsin by the National Trial Lawyers Association. Tom has also been named one of the “Top Attorneys in Wisconsin” by Milwaukee Magazine and Madison Magazine.