In Wisconsin, the offense known as driving under the influence (DUI) in other states is known as operating while intoxicated (OWI). No matter what you call it, the charge is the same: it is the crime of driving while one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher. For a driver under age 21, it is possible to be charged with OWI for driving with a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher. For commercial drivers on the job, the legal BAC is 0.04 percent.
OWI is a criminal offense. As such, you can fight an OWI charge with the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. There are many reasons why it is in your best interest to fight an OWI charge, the most obvious of which is avoiding penalties that include fines, loss of your driver’s license, and even jail time. Another critical reason to fight an OWI charge is that this type of charge is cumulative. If you are convicted of the OWI you are currently facing, you will face steeper penalties for any subsequent OWI charges you face. Keeping an OWI of your record now will minimize any future OWI charges you face.
A few factors affect your blood alcohol concentration. These are:
Women’s BACs rise more quickly than men’s because they tend to be smaller and because they produce less of the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol. Once you have alcohol in your bloodstream, you cannot do anything to reduce your BAC. You must simply wait until you metabolize the alcohol, which your body will do at a rate of about .015 percent per hour.
In Wisconsin, your first OWI charge is a civil offense. Your second and third are misdemeanors, and your fourth OWI and beyond are felonies.
Certain aggravating factors can increase an OWI charge to a serious felony, even if it is your first, second, or third OWI charge. These include:
Additionally, you can face penalties for refusing to provide a breath sample to determine your BAC at the time of your arrest. Wisconsin has an implied consent law, which means that all licensed drivers agree to consent to any BAC tests officers request they complete. The penalty for a first time refusal to submit a BAC sample is a one-year driver’s license revocation. For subsequent refusals, this period becomes longer. The lookback period for this offense is 10 years, which means that if you refuse to provide a BAC sample a second time within a decade of your first refusal, your driver’s license will be revoked for two years. But if more than 10 years pass, you will only face a one-year revocation for refusing to provide a BAC sample.
The penalties you face for your OWI conviction depend on a variety of factors, the most prominent of which is the number of previous OWI convictions you have on your record. Based on your previous record, the penalties you will face for an OWI conviction in Wisconsin are as follows:
You can face additional penalties if one or more aggravating factors are at play in your case. One such aggravating factor is having a child under the age of 16 in your car when you are arrested, which doubles the penalties you face. Another is causing a severe injury or death through your drunk driving, which may be charged as a Class F, Class D, or Class C felony and carry penalties as steep as 40 years in prison.
When you are arrested for OWI, your next step should be to start working on your legal defense strategy with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
The right defense strategy for your case depends on its circumstances. If your civil rights were violated in some way, such as law enforcement searching your vehicle without a valid search warrant, this can be part of your defense strategy. Other strategies include proving that you were not impaired when you were driving and demonstrating that the breathalyzer test used to obtain your BAC sample was not calibrated properly.
Sometimes, your defense strategy results in the charge being dropped. In other cases, the best possible outcome is pleading the charge down to a “wet reckless.”
If you have been charged with OWI, start working with an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible to develop an effective legal defense strategy for your case. To get started with a member of our team, contact Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC today to set up your initial legal consultation in our office.