What are the DUI penalties in Wisconsin?

What are the DUI penalties in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious criminal offense. Technically referred to as operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Wisconsin, a drunk driving charge carries severe penalties, with the specific penalties that are on the table being determined based upon the defendant’s criminal history and other factors.

If you are facing a DUI (or OWI) charge in Wisconsin, it is important that you know what is at risk. Here is an overview of the DUI penalties in Wisconsin, followed by a brief discussion of the “collateral consequences” of a DUI conviction:

Overview of Wisconsin’s DUI Penalties

Wisconsin law imposes different penalties for first-time and repeat DUI offenders. In fact, the penalties for repeat offenders increase all the way up through a tenth offense. Here is an overview of the statutory penalties that apply in “standard” DUI cases (those that do not involve an accident or other aggravating factors) for first, second, and third-time offenders:

First-Time DUI Offenders

If this is your first time being charged with a DUI, you are facing financial penalties and a driver’s license suspension. If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.15 or above, you may also be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle or participate in a 24/7 sobriety program. The penalties for a first-time DUI offense in Wisconsin are:

  • $150 to $300 in fines
  • $435 OWI surcharge
  • Six to nine month driver’s license suspension
  • IID installation or 24/7 sobriety program for 12 months (if your BAC was 0.15 or above)

Second-Time DUI Offenders

If this is your second time being charged with a DUI, the penalties you are facing depend on whether (i) you received your prior DUI conviction within the past 10 years, and (ii) your prior conviction involved great bodily harm or death. If your prior DUI conviction is more than 10 years old and did not involve great bodily harm or death, the penalties you are facing include:

  • $150 to $300 in fines
  • $435 OWI surcharge
  • Six to nine month driver’s license suspension
  • IID installation or 24/7 sobriety program for 12 months (if your BAC was 0.15 or above)

If your prior DUI is less than 10 years old or involved great bodily harm or death, the penalties you are facing include:

  • $350 to $1,100 in fines
  • $435 OWI surcharge
  • Five days to six months in jail
  • 12 to 18 month driver’s license suspension
  • IID installation or 24/7 sobriety program for 12 to 18 months

Third-Time DUI Offenders

Once you get to a third-time DUI offense in Wisconsin, the penalties begin to increase dramatically. For a third offense (regardless of the specifics of your prior convictions), you will face penalties including:

  • $600 to $2,000 in fines
  • $435 OWI surcharge
  • 45 days to one year in jail
  • 24 to 36 month driver’s license suspension
  • IID installation or 24/7 sobriety program for 12 to 36 months

Certain factors can increase the penalties that are on the table. For example, if you were arrested for DUI with a minor in your vehicle, or if you caused an accident resulting in injury or death, you could be at risk for penalties including:

  • Minor Passenger Under Age 16 – For a first-time offense, a DUI with a minor passenger carriesup to a $1,100 fine, five days to six months in jail, driver’s license suspension of six to nine months, and 12 to 18 months of IID use or 24/7 sobriety program participation (penalties increase for repeat offenders).
  • Accident Resulting in Injury – With no prior offense or breath test refusal, causing an accident while driving under the influence carries up to a $2,000 fine, 30 days to 12 months in jail, driver’s license suspension of 12 to 24 months, and up to 24 months of IID use or 24/7 sobriety program participation. With a prior offense or breath test refusal, the penalties increase to a $10,000 fine, up to six years in prison, driver’s license suspension of 12 to 24 months, and up to 24 months of IID use or 24/7 sobriety program participation.
  • Accident Resulting in Great Bodily Harm – If you cause an accident that results in great bodily harm while driving under the influence, you can face up to a $25,000 fine and 12.5 years in prison, plus a 24-month driver’s license suspension and 24 months of IID use or 24/7 sobriety program participation after your release.
  • Accident Resulting in Death – Causing an accident while driving under the influence is prosecuted as the crime of “homicide while OWI” in Wisconsin. If convicted, you can face up to a $100,000 fine and 25 years in prison (increased to 40 years if you have a prior DUI conviction), plus a five-year driver’s license suspension and five years of IID use or 24/7 sobriety program participation after your release.

Understanding the Collateral Consequences of a DUI Conviction

In addition to the penalties imposed by the Wisconsin Statutes, individuals who are convicted of DUI (or OWI) in Wisconsin can face various collateral consequences as well.  These are consequences outside of your sentence that can impact virtually all aspects of your life. For example, having a DUI conviction on your criminal record in Wisconsin can lead to:

  • Suspension or expulsion from school (or difficulty getting into college)
  • Loss of your current job
  • Difficulty finding a job (since many companies are hesitant to hire individuals with criminal records)
  • Difficulty finding housing (since many landlords and lenders conduct criminal background checks as well)
  • Increased car insurance rates
  • Professional discipline or loss of your professional license
  • Challenges related to child custody, eligibility for government assistance, immigration status, and other issues

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Wisconsin DUI Defense Lawyer

Are you facing a DUI (or OWI) charge in Wisconsin? If so, it is extremely important that you speak with a DUI lawyer about your case. To learn about the defenses you may be able to use to fight your DUI, call Mays Law Office at 608-257-0440 or request a free consultation online today.

Drunk Driving: The Prosecutor’s Role

Drunk Driving: The Prosecutor’s Role

Prosecution refers to the government’s role in the criminal justice system. When criminal activity is suspected, it is often up to the government to investigate, arrest, charge, and bring the alleged offender to trial. Prosecutors are the lawyers who work for the government and who are responsible for developing and presenting the government’s case against a defendant. Prosecutors may be called county attorneys, city attorneys, or district attorneys. The prosecutor is the opponent or “adversary” of the criminal defendant and his or her attorney; the two sides go head-to-head against each other in court. Because these public attorneys focus their energies on prosecuting criminal cases, they are generally very experienced in criminal law, and it is therefore essential to have an experienced defense attorney. Thus, in order to best preserve a criminal defendant’s rights and strike a fair balance in court, representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney, particularly one knowledgeable in drunk driving law, is a must.
Does Wisconsin have an ignition interlock law?

Does Wisconsin have an ignition interlock law?

Every state in the Union has laws against drunk driving. However, it is important to know that the particular laws may vary between states.

Wisconsin is one of many states that has ignition interlock requirements after certain kinds of DUI convictions. According to the state of Wisconsin, you will have to install an ignition interlock device if you have had multiple DUIs, if you had a BAC higher than .15 at the time the police pulled you over, or if you refuse a breathalyzer test when stopped.

What is ignition interlock?

An ignition interlock device is a small breathalyzer a mechanic installs in your car. If you have an ignition interlock device installed, you must breathe into it as you are starting your car. If the device detects any alcohol on your breath, the car will not start.

Once the car is operating, you will need to breathe into it at regular intervals. This is to ensure that you have not not consumed alcohol after starting the vehicle.

Can I “wait it out?”

It is of course possible to choose not to drive after receiving a DUI. However, there is no way of waiting out an ignition interlock order. Even if you choose not to drive in the direct aftermath of a DUI conviction, the requirement for ignition interlock will still stay on your record. If at any point in the future you wish to obtain a driver’s license, the requirement will still be there.

If you require an ignition interlock device, the burden for payment is on you. However, if you can prove need to the state, you may be eligible for a 50% reduction in cost.

What Are Pretextual Traffic Stops?

What Are Pretextual Traffic Stops?

There are so many traffic laws and motor vehicle equipment regulations on the books that nearly all of us could be pulled over at any time. In other words, it’s very difficult to drive without violating some sort of traffic law.

Every year throughout the United States, law enforcement officers institute 20 million traffic stops, which is about 50,000 every single day. The reason these stops are so common is that police can pull someone over for very mundane reasons, but then use that traffic stop to investigate more serious crimes. These are known as pretextual stops.

These kinds of stops may lead to arrests for drunk driving, drug possession and other offenses unrelated to the initial reason for the stop. Law enforcement advocates claim that pretextual stops are necessary to ensure public safety. But are they? And should police have this much authority?

One major problem with pretextual stops is that officers have a lot of discretion in who they stop, which has led to significant racial bias. White drivers are 20 percent less likely to be stopped than black drivers, despite the fact that white drivers are a much larger percentage of the population. And in a large-scale analysis of stops, one study found that white drivers were more likely to be in possession of contraband (like drugs or guns), yet black drivers were searched 1.5 to 2 times more often.

Because of problems like these, some state legislatures are working to restrict the offenses for which officers can make pretextual stops. In doing so, they hope to reduce racial disparities in policing and to generally limit the amount of investigative interactions between police and average citizens (some of which can turn deadly).

Until or unless Wisconsin enacts such changes, all drivers should know that while police have broad authority to make traffic stops, their power isn’t endless. If you have been charged with drunk driving, drug possession or another offense based on a traffic stop, it may be worth investigating whether the officer had a justifiable reason to pull you over. If not, you can petition the court to suppress any evidence gathered during the stop.

For more information on how you can fight your criminal charges, contact our office to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney today.

Is it possible to challenge a breathalyzer?

Is it possible to challenge a breathalyzer?

In the majority of DUI cases, an important piece of evidence is the blood alcohol level of the accused at the time of the incident. However, in certain circumstances it is possible to challenge breathalyzer results in court. Whether or not this is possible for you depends on your particular case. According to FindLaw, the two major ways to challenge a breathalyzer are to either  question the machine itself or the training of the officer who used it.

What could be wrong with the breathalyzer?

Breathalyzers are machines, which means that they have the potential to malfunction. For example, in a DUI case in Iowa a man was able to blow a “HI” reading on a breathalyzer in the courtroom while entirely sober. Even if the breathalyzer itself is functioning, somebody must calibrate it in order to work properly. Usually, an officer will provide testimony to this fact. However, if the officer cannot do this it is possible that the courts will throw out the case.

What could be wrong with the officer’s training?

Just like with radar guns, police must be properly trained to use breathalyzers. Usually the officer will provide testimony that the police trained the officer in the use of breathalyzers. However, again, if the officer cannot do this it is possible the courts will not admit the results of the breathalyzer. The police also must have had probable cause to make you submit to testing. Again, an officer must testify that you were exhibiting signs of drunkenness or erratic driving. Otherwise, the police performed the test in an illegal manner and the courts will not admit the results.
The purpose of an alcohol assessment after a DUI

The purpose of an alcohol assessment after a DUI

Depending on the circumstances surrounding a person’s DUI conviction in Wisconsin, consequences could range from a temporary suspension of driving privileges to years behind bars.

For less severe charges, people may fit the eligibility requirements to participate in an alcohol assessment. Upon successful completion, their participation could help them get their driving privileges back.

Implementing a personal driving plan

Participation in an alcohol assessment goes hand in hand with a personal driving plan. According to the State of Wisconsin, Department of Transportation, people convicted of DUI have 72 hours to contact an approved assessment facility after their conviction. They can voluntarily contact a DUI lawyer after their arrest as well.

Driver safety plans look different depending on things like the offender’s likelihood of reoffending and whether or not he or she is actively participating in other rehabilitative services as well. Once finalized, the driver safety plan goes through the Alcohol and Drug Review Unit. The terms and conditions of license eligibility and reinstatement rely on the outcome of the review.

Getting subsequent DUIs

Wisconsin’s legal limit for alcohol consumption while driving is 0.08. However, according to the State of Wisconsin, Department of Transportation, if authorities detect any impairment from drugs or alcohol in a driver, he or she may face arrest regardless of blood alcohol content results. People who re-offend have a lowered limit of 0.02 BAC.

If people get a subsequent DUI while they are under the guidelines of a driver safety plan, they could compromise their eligibility to have their license returned. They must also participate in regular assessments of their driving habits, as well as pay all required fees and legal repercussions to remain eligible to have their privileges reinstated.

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