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OWI in Wisconsin

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iStock_000009219081XSmall.jpg           In Wisconsin, law enforcement, the legislature, and the courts have taken an aggressive approach towards reducing the amount of drunk drivers.  Law enforcement has special patrols dedicated towards finding and arresting drunk drivers.  Almost every year, new legislation is passed that increases the penalties for drunk driving.  The courts have established special courts and programs that strictly monitor defendants charged and convicted of drunk driving. 

If you’re arrested for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), which can be for alcohol, illegal drugs or prescribed drubs, you can expect significant consequences now.  In the past, a first offense OWI was not considered serious.  It was always a municipal offense, unless someone was injured.  But now, a first offense OWI will result in a criminal conviction and a jail sentence if a child was in the car.  Aside from mandatory jail sentences for repeat drunk drivers, there are many hidden costs that come with an OWI conviction.   

Probation:  The new laws allow judges to order probation as a condition of second and third OWI offenses as long as the defendant serves the mandatory minimum jail sentence.  If you’re placed on probation you will have to report to an agent and attended programs aimed at reducing drunk driving.

Ignition Interlock Device (IIDs): The new laws require people convicted to install their vehicles with (IIDs) in a number of situations.  The IID requires a person to submit to a breath sample before and during the operation of the vehicle.   The device will prevent the vehicle from starting or continuing if alcohol is detected.  IIDs are mandatory for a first offense if the blood alcohol content (BAC) was greater than .15 and for anyone convicted of a second or subsequent offense.  These devices can cost over $100 per month and their use is mandatory for up to several years.  In addition, the prohibited BAC for a person who has an IID on their vehicle is .02 for the entire duration of the IID.

Fines: The amount of the fine is dependent on the number of prior convictions and the BAC at the time of the driving.  Fines can range from several hundred dollars up to $100,000 for a person with a Homicide by OWI.

Court Mandated Classes:  A conviction for OWI will always require at least an OWI assessment and additional programs for repeat drunk drivers.  These classes come at a financial cost.

Occupational License:  After conviction, your driver’s license will be revoked.  The length of the revocation depends on the BAC and number of prior convictions.  Following a first offense, and for some second offenses that are within 10 years of the first offense, or for any third or subsequent offense, the person may usually apply for an occupational after 45 days.  The occupational license has restrictions and limits when, where and how long a person can drive.

Insurance Costs: With any OWI conviction will come higher insurance premiums.  Many insurance companies will refuse to insure repeat drunk drivers.   For those insurance companies that will insure drunk drivers, it comes at a significant financial cost for the drunk driver.   Generally, the higher rates will last at least 5 years. 

Again, Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of drunk driving in the United States.   Consequently, law enforcement, the legislature, and the courts have consistently increased their efforts to reduce drunk driving.   A conviction for OWI will have a drastic effect on the offender and will carry consequences for longer than the driver’s license revocation.  

If you are arrested for an OWI, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.  Driver sober and drive safe!