In Wisconsin, the offense of drunk driving is charged as operating while intoxicated (OWI). This same offense is referred to as DUI and DWI in other parts of the country, and each of these monikers refers to the same thing: driving while one’s blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit.
There were approximately 24,000 OWI convictions in Wisconsin in 2015 and 190 drunk driving deaths. OWI is dangerous, and it is a serious charge that can change a convicted driver’s life. If you are facing an OWI charge, you can fight the charge and retain your liberty and driving privileges. The most effective way to do this is by working with an experienced OWI defense lawyer to fight the charge.
In Wisconsin, as in every other state in the United States, it is illegal to drive when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher. For certain segments of the population, the legal BAC limit for drivers is even lower. It is 0.02 percent for drivers younger than 21 and 0.04 percent for commercial drivers while on the job.
The average human body metabolizes alcohol at a rate of 0.15 percent per hour. This translates to the body metabolizing a shot of liquor in about one hour and a pint of beer in about two hours. It is important to keep in mind, though, that there are a variety of factors that determine how quickly alcohol is absorbed into an individual’s bloodstream and how quickly his or her body metabolizes it. These factors include:
An individual’s BAC can be determined through a blood test, a urine test, or a breath test.
In Wisconsin, how an OWI offense is charged depends on a few factors. These factors include whether the driver has previous OWI convictions on his or her record and whether there are any aggravating factors at play, such as the driver causing bodily harm or death to a victim while driving under the influence of alcohol.
An individual’s first OWI offense is charged as a civil offense. His or her second and third OWI charges are misdemeanors, and every subsequent OWI is charged as a felony. As mentioned above, there are also aggravating factors that can cause an otherwise lower-level OWI to be charged as a felony. These include:
The penalties an individual faces for an OWI conviction depend on how the OWI is charged. In Wisconsin, an OWI conviction carries the following penalties:
When one of the aggravating factors listed above is present, the driver can face even steeper penalties. OWI with a minor in the vehicle can double the penalties he or she faces, and OWI that results in a victim’s severe bodily injury or death can land the driver in prison for decades.
Additionally, refusing to provide a BAC sample when asked to do so by law enforcement can result in a one-year driver’s license revocation.
Although it might seem like an OWI charge will inevitably lead to a conviction, there are actually many potential defense strategies you can use to fight your OWI charge. The right strategy for you depends on the circumstances of your case, which your lawyer can help you determine.
Potential defense strategies to employ include:
Ideally, your defense strategy will result in your charge being dismissed. But sometimes, this is not possible. In certain cases, the best outcome a defendant can hope for is to have his or her charge reduced to a wet reckless charge, a traffic violation that does not result in the driver having an OWI conviction added to his or her record.
If you have been charged with OWI, you can fight the charge with the aid of an experienced Fond du Lac criminal defense lawyer. To get started on your OWI defense case today, contact our team at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC to schedule your initial legal consultation in our office. We are here to answer your questions, help you develop a solid defense strategy for your case and ultimately, be your advocates to help your case reach the best outcome possible.