Wisconsin OWI Case: Should I Testify?

Wisconsin OWI Case: Should I Testify?

If you have been charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Wisconsin, should you testify in court? Or, is it better to stay silent and rely on other means of defense? Just like requesting a jury trial—which we discussed in last month’s post—the short answer is, “It depends.”

Understanding Your Right to Testify in Wisconsin

First, let’s talk about your right to testify. When you are facing an OWI case in Wisconsin, you have the right to testify in your own defense. You have the right to take the stand, and you have the right to explain what happened from your point of view—with the goal of convincing the judge or jury that a “Guilty” verdict is not warranted.

Whether you take the stand is completely up to you. While you have the right to testify if you choose to do so, the prosecution cannot force you to face the judge or jury under oath. However, if you choose to testify, then the prosecution does get the right to conduct a cross-examination. You can assert your privilege against self-incrimination during cross-examination, but you cannot refuse to answer prosecutors’ questions entirely.

When Does It Make Sense to Testify in an OWI Case?

With this in mind, when might you want to testify? Testifying can make sense in various circumstances. For example, it may be worth testifying in your OWI case if:

  • You Need to Set the Record Straight – If you made self-incriminating statements during your OWI arrest, taking the stand could provide an opportunity to set the record straight. Did the arresting officer ask confusing questions? Did you get flustered? Did you feel pressured to say something that you didn’t mean? If prosecutors are already planning to use your own words against you, then testifying could make sense.
  • You Weren’t Driving Under the Influence – If you are absolutely certain that you weren’t driving under the influence, then you don’t have anything to hide. While you will still need to be thoroughly prepared to deal with the prosecution’s cross-examination, this could be a situation in which it makes sense to testify as well.
  • The Prosecution’s Evidence is Limited – It could also be worth taking the stand if the prosecution’s evidence is limited. For example, if the prosecution’s case largely hinges on your arresting officer’s testimony, telling your side of the story could be enough to convince the judge or jury that the prosecution hasn’t proven your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

It won’t always make sense to testify in these scenarios—and these aren’t the only scenarios in which it may make sense to testify on your own behalf. Rather, these are examples of situations in which it may make sense to take the stand in some cases. Due to the potential risks involved with taking the stand, you need to make an informed decision about whether to testify, and this means that you should discuss your case with an experienced OWI defense attorney.

Why Wouldn’t You Take the Stand in Your Own Defense?

Now that we’ve covered some of the scenarios in which it can make sense to testify, why wouldn’t you take the stand in your own defense? Simply put, taking the stand can be risky. As you evaluate your options, it will be important to consider factors such as:

  • You Might Not Perform as Well as You Expect To – Almost everyone gets nervous on the witness stand. No matter how much you prepare, and no matter how confident you are in what you are planning to say, testifying under oath when you have a lot at stake can be overwhelming. If you say the wrong thing, or if you come across as being scared or nervous, this could have adverse consequences for your defense.
  • You Will Need the Judge or Jury to Believe You – While some forms of evidence are undeniable, testimony is not. No matter how honest you are on the stand, there is a chance that the judge or jury simply won’t believe you. If this happens, testifying could have the opposite of its intended effect.
  • Testifying Means Submitting to Cross-Examination – As we mentioned above, if you choose to testify, you will be subject to cross-examination. Many prosecutors are very good at what they do, and they know how to get defendants to contradict themselves and say things that make them appear untrustworthy.

Taking the stand can entail other risks as well. Understanding the specific risks in your case requires a careful look at the facts involved. Once again, an experienced OWI defense attorney can help, and we strongly recommend speaking with an attorney before you make any decisions about how to approach your case.

What Are Your Options if You Don’t Testify?

Let’s say you choose not to testify. If you don’t take the stand, what can you do to fight your OWI? While the options you have available depend on the facts of your case, some examples of potential options include:

  • Seeking to have the prosecution’s evidence excluded from trial based on a lack of reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
  • Challenging the reliability of your field sobriety test (FST) results or your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading.
  • Showing that the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient to prove all elements of your OWI charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Negotiating a plea bargain that reduces your OWI to a reckless driving charge (commonly referred to as a “wet reckless”).
  • Entering into one of Wisconsin’s diversion programs, which allows you to avoid a conviction regardless of the facts of your case.

Discuss Your Case with an OWI Defense Lawyer at Mays Law Office in Madison, WI

Do you have questions about testifying in your Wisconsin OWI case? If so, we invite you to contact us for a free and confidential consultation. To discuss your case with an experienced OWI defense lawyer in Madison, give us a call at 608-257-0440 or tell us how we can reach you online today.

Attorney Steve Mays Wins Challenging SFST

Attorney Steve Mays Wins Challenging SFST

ATTORNEY STEVE MAYS WINS FOR HIS CLIENT CHALLENGING THE VALIDITY OF FIELD SOBRIETY TESTING (SFST)

Attorney Steve Mays got the OWI charge (operating while under the influence) dropped for his Client M.E. when he challenged the lawfulness of the police officer’s Field Sobriety Testing performed on the scene of arrest.

ME was pulled over due to his vehicle registration being expired. In his report of the incident, the arresting officer indicated that he detected an odor of intoxicants and noticed ME had bloodshot eyes. He further suggested that ME initially handing him a credit card when he was asked to provide his driver license was a sign of possible alcohol impairment. When asked to provide proof of insurance, ME “grabbed a bunch of papers but fumbled through them.” The officer further viewed this as evidence of impairment. When asked if he had been drinking, ME responded that he had consumed one beer approximately four hours prior. Based on these observations, the officer asked ME to exit his vehicle to perform standardized field sobriety testing (SFST).

Standardized Field Sobriety Testing is comprised of a battery of three (3) standardized tests: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the Walk-and-Turn (WAT), and the One-Leg Stand (OLS). These tests are designed to evaluate a person’s balance, coordination, and cognitive function—skills often impaired by alcohol consumption. This battery of three tests was developed after many, many national studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): The HGN test involves observing the involuntary jerking of the eyes as they gaze to the side. Alcohol consumption exaggerates this jerking, making it more pronounced at lower angles. Officers assess the smoothness of eye movement, tracking ability, and onset of nystagmus, providing insights into the level of intoxication.

2. Walk-and-Turn (WAT): In the WAT test, individuals are instructed to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn on one foot, and return in the same manner. Officers look for indicators such as the ability (or inability) to maintain balance, follow instructions, and perform the task accurately, all of which can be compromised by alcohol impairment.

3. One-Leg Stand (OLS): During the OLS test, drivers are asked to stand on one leg while keeping the other foot approximately six inches off the ground. Officers monitor the individual’s ability to maintain balance and count seconds as a measure of impairment.
While SFST’s are a widely accepted tool, they are not without criticisms and limitations. Critics argue that factors such as age, weight, physical condition, and nervousness can affect test performance, leading to false positives. Additionally, certain medical conditions, environmental factors, and even footwear can influence results, casting doubt on the tests’ reliability.

Furthermore, concerns about subjectivity in interpretation exist. Officers undergo training to administer and evaluate SFST’s, but human judgment remains a factor. Bias, unconscious or otherwise, could potentially influence the outcome of tests, raising questions about fairness and accuracy.

In this particular case, an environmental factor, as mentioned above, played a pivotal role in the success of ME’s defense. One such environmental factor which can interfere with the HGN in particular is flashing lights. Nystagmus is an “involuntary jerking of the eyes.” It is always present to some degree but is exacerbated by alcohol consumption. This manifests as what is known as “gaze nystagmus.” However, there are numerous other causes of nystagmus ranging from neurological disorders to vitamin deficiencies. The particular cause at play in this case was flashing lights, which can cause “optokinetic nystagmus,” something that law enforcement officers are not trained or qualified to distinguish from gaze nystagmus.

When the officer began the first test, the HGN, pursuant to his training, he deactivated his front facing flashing squad lights so as to not be a source for a potential false positive. However, before the test commenced, a second officer arrived on scene. He did not deactivate any of his flashing squad lights. Video evidence revealed that throughout the entire HGN test there were flashing lights directly in ME’s line of vision. ME’s performance on the other two standardized field sobriety tests revealed little, if any, indications of impairment. Nevertheless, the arresting officer requested that ME submit to a handheld preliminary breath test (PBT). Based on the HGN test and the PBT result, ME was placed under arrest for Operating While under the Influence of an Intoxicant as a third offense and taken into custody to perform an evidentiary chemical test of his breath, which unlike the PBT, is admissible in court.

Based on the video evidence Attorney Stephen Mays filed a motion to suppress ME’s arrest. Suppression is a remedy for a violation of one’s constitutional rights, in this case a violation of ME’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures. Two issues were raised in this case. The larger issue was whether ME’s arrest was supported by evidence of impaired driving sufficient to rise to the level of probable cause. However within that issue is the secondary question of whether the evidence leading up to the PBT request met the lesser standard of “probable cause to believe” that ME was impaired, which is the standard of proof required by statute and case law before an officer is permitted to request a PBT (see: County of Jefferson v. Renz, 231 Wis. 2d 293, 316, 603 N.W.2d 541 (1999), which was also handled and argued by Attorney Mays in the Wisconsin Supreme Court).

In practice, what this means is that if the evidence prior to the PBT request was sufficient to make the request and the result is over the legal limit, in most cases this means that the arrest itself will be deemed supported by probable cause, and therefore, lawful. If not and the PBT result is suppressed, then it is axiomatic that the arrest itself was not supported by probable cause and everything that occurred after that point becomes inadmissible in court, most importantly the evidentiary chemical breath test.

When the motion was heard by the Court, Attorney Mays mercilessly cross-examined the arresting officer regarding the impropriety of administering an HGN test in the presence of flashing lights – which he claimed did not happen, until he was proven wrong when viewing the video in court – thereby introducing the possibility that what he observed may not have been gaze nystagmus at all. Ultimately, the officer was forced to admit that he did not administer the HGN in a manner consistent with his training and as required by NHTSA, and that the validity of that test was compromised as a result. Following briefing of the legal issues, as requested by the Court, the Court ruled that the arrest of ME was not supported by probable cause in violation of ME’s Fourth Amendment rights. As a result, the evidentiary chemical breath test was suppressed for use at trial. Deprived of its most significant piece of evidence, the State had no choice but to move to dismiss the case.

Attorney Steve Mays is an aggressive advocate for his client’s. He has more than two decades of experience winning for his client’s. He has a 5 Star Google review from his previous client’s. Charged with a crime? Do not hesitate to call Mays Law Office and talk to Attorney Steve Mays for a free consultation.

Requesting a Jury Trial in a Wisconsin OWI Case: What You Need to Know

Requesting a Jury Trial in a Wisconsin OWI Case: What You Need to Know

When you get charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Wisconsin, the decisions you make early in your case can impact your life for years to come. This includes your decision regarding whether to request a jury trial. Unlike some states, Wisconsin affords the right to a jury trial to all OWI offenders. So, should you request a jury trial? The answer to this question depends on the circumstances of your case.

Understanding Your Right to a Jury Trial in a Wisconsin OWI Case

While you have the right to a jury trial in your OWI case, it is up to you to request a jury. If you don’t, a judge will hear the facts of your case instead. A judge will preside over your case either way; but, if you elect a jury trial, the judge’s role will be more limited (though the judge could still ultimately decide the outcome of your case, as we discuss below). When a judge hears the facts of your case, this is referred to as a bench trial.

In Wisconsin OWI cases, the jury has six members. Importantly, however, the six jurors do not need to reach a unanimous verdict to find you guilty. This is because an OWI is classified as a traffic violation instead of a crime. In OWI cases, it is enough if five of the six jurors agree that the prosecution has met its burden of proof.

Even though OWI isn’t a crime in Wisconsin, the prosecution’s burden of proof is still “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that at least five of the six jurors must be thoroughly convinced that you broke the law. Under Wisconsin’s OWI statute, this could mean that either: (i) you were driving under the influence; or, (ii) your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was over the legal limit.

Why Should (or Shouldn’t) You Request a Jury Trial?

As we mentioned above, whether you should request a jury trial depends on the circumstances of your OWI case. To see why, we can look at some of the benefits of jury trials and the contrasting benefits of bench trials. Some of the benefits of having a jury hear your OWI case include:

  • You get to play a role in the jury selection process
  • If five or more jurors cannot agree that you are guilty, you won’t be convicted
  • Jurors may be more sympathetic to your personal circumstances than a judge
  • Before the jury deliberates, you can ask the judge to acquit you based on a lack of evidence (and, if the judge denies your motion, you still get the benefit of having a jury)
  • Having a jury hear your case can provide additional grounds for appeal if you get convicted

In contrast, some of the benefits of having a judge decide the outcome of your Wisconsin OWI case include:

  • If you have technical defenses that are not based on innocence, a judge may be better able to understand these defenses and render a just verdict
  • If you are not a sympathetic defendant (i.e., if you are being accused of causing a serious accident while driving drunk), a judge may be more likely to render an unbiased decision
  • Compared to jury trials, bench trials are relatively quick and inexpensive

Just because we’ve listed fewer benefits for bench trials, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a jury trial is always the best option—it isn’t. When deciding whether to request a jury trial, you need to make an informed decision based on what is likely to give you the best chance of a favorable outcome in light of all of the facts at hand.

3 Ways to Resolve Your OWI Case Without Going to Trial

While choosing to request a jury trial (or choosing not to request a jury trial) is an extremely important decision, it is important to keep in mind that going to trial isn’t necessarily your only option. Regardless of whether you exercise your right to a trial by jury, you may be able to achieve a favorable outcome without relying on a judge or jury to conclude that the prosecution hasn’t met its burden of proof.

How? Before your case goes to trial, you may be able to achieve a favorable outcome by:

1. Entering Into a Diversion Program

If you are eligible to participate in a diversion program, you can avoid an OWI conviction regardless of the facts of your case—provided that you complete the program successfully. With these programs, your OWI case is “diverted” from trial during your participation; and, if you complete the program successfully, your OWI charge will be dropped. While there are financial costs and time commitments involved, these costs can be well worth it if they save you from the consequences of an OWI conviction.

2. Negotiating a Plea Bargain

If you aren’t eligible to participate in a diversion program, then the next best option may be to seek a plea bargain. While you generally shouldn’t accept a plea bargain if you have strong trial defenses available, if you don’t have strong trial defenses available, negotiating a plea can help to mitigate the consequences of your arrest.

3. Getting the Judge to Dismiss Your OWI Charge

Finally, in some cases, it will be possible to secure a dismissal before trial. If the prosecution’s evidence is inadmissible because the police violated your constitutional rights, or if some other facts or circumstances mean you don’t deserve to stand trial, an experienced OWI defense lawyer may be able to help end your trial before it begins.

Discuss Your Options with an OWI Defense Lawyer in Madison, WI

Are you wondering whether you should request a jury trial in your Wisconsin OWI case? If so, our lawyers can help you make an informed decision, and we can assert all available defenses on your behalf. To learn more in a free and confidential consultation, give us a call at 608-257-0440 or request an appointment online today.

OWI Plea Bargain: Should You Consider for Your Wisconsin Case?

OWI Plea Bargain: Should You Consider for Your Wisconsin Case?

When you get an OWI in Wisconsin, you have three primary options for resolving your case. If you are eligible, you can enter into a diversion program that allows you to keep a clean record. If you aren’t eligible (or if you have grounds to fight your OWI), you can take your case to court. Alternatively, you can seek a plea bargain. While negotiating a plea bargain doesn’t allow you to keep a clean record, it does allow you to avoid the harshest consequences of an OWI conviction.

What is a Plea Bargain?

Before we talk about when you should consider a plea bargain, we first need to discuss exactly what it means to seek a plea bargain in a Wisconsin OWI case. There are three key aspects to plea bargaining in Wisconsin:

  • Seeking a Plea Bargain Involves Negotiating with the Prosecutor’s Office – Seeking a plea bargain involves working with the prosecutor’s office. Prosecutors get paid to secure convictions, and they will fight vigorously to hold drunk drivers accountable. But, they also have substantial caseloads, and they have the authority to resolve cases via plea bargain when it makes sense to do so. As a result, plea bargaining will often be in both parties’ best interests, and leveraging this fact can help facilitate favorable plea negotiations.
  • Accepting a Plea Bargain Means Pleading Guilty (or “No Contest”) to an Offense – While accepting a plea bargain allows you to avoid the harshest consequences of an OWI conviction, it still means pleading guilty (or “no contest”) to an offense. This means that you will have a conviction on your record—and this alone warrants careful consideration when deciding how to approach your OWI case.
  • Accepting a Plea Bargain Means You Won’t Have to Go to Trial – When you accept a plea bargain, you don’t have to go to trial. Before you accept a plea, you will know exactly what penalties you will face, and you can use this information to make an informed decision. In contrast, the outcome of trial is never guaranteed, and an OWI conviction in court can have life-altering consequences.

Understanding how plea bargains work is essential for deciding how to approach your OWI case. If you accept a plea bargain, your options for appealing the outcome of your case will be limited, so it is critical to ensure that you are making informed decisions.

What Types of Plea Bargains Are Available in a Wisconsin OWI Case?

There are three primary types of plea bargains in Wisconsin. When deciding whether it makes sense to seek a plea bargain, you need to determine which type (or types) the prosecutor’s office will likely be willing to consider based on the facts of your case. In a Wisconsin OWI case, a plea bargain can involve:

  • Pleading to a Lesser Offense (i.e., a “Wet Reckless”) – Many OWI plea deals involve pleading guilty (or “no contest”) to a lesser offense. In most cases, this involves accepting responsibility for reckless driving, which is commonly referred to as a “wet reckless” in this context.
  • Pleading to OWI in Exchange for a Reduced Sentence – Another option is to plead guilty (or “no contest”) to OWI in exchange for a reduced sentence. However, due to the substantial consequences of having an OWI on your record, it will make more sense to plead to a lesser offense (if possible) in most cases.
  • Pleading to One Charge in Exchange for Having Another Charge Dropped – If you are facing multiple charges as a result of your OWI arrest, a third option may be to plead to one charge in exchange for having another charge dropped. Just like the other options discussed above, when seeking this type of plea deal, it is critical to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the consequences involved.

While these are the basic structures of plea bargains in Wisconsin, individual plea bargains can be much more complex—and they may involve a combination of the above. If you decide to seek a plea bargain, you will need to work closely with your OWI defense lawyer to ensure that you are seeking a favorable deal in light of the facts at hand.

When Should You Consider a Plea Bargain After an OWI Arrest?

With this information in mind, when should you consider a plea bargain after an OWI arrest in Wisconsin? Deciding whether to seek a plea bargain requires a thorough assessment of all relevant facts and circumstances. As a result, it is critical to work with an experienced OWI defense lawyer who can help you evaluate your options.
When you speak with an experienced OWI defense lawyer about your case, your lawyer will help you consider factors such as:

What is Your Likelihood of Facing a Conviction at Trial?

There are several defenses to OWI charges under Wisconsin law. If you have strong grounds to fight your OWI charge, then accepting a plea deal may not be your best option.

Do You Qualify for a Diversion Program?

Even if you don’t have strong grounds to fight your OWI charge, accepting a plea deal still may not be your best option if you qualify for a diversion program. Entering into (and successfully completing) a diversion program allows you to avoid a conviction entirely.

What Can You Reasonably Expect from a Plea Bargain in Your Case?

Before seeking a plea bargain, it is also important to assess what you can reasonably expect from the process. If the facts of your case are such that the prosecutor’s office is unlikely to offer a favorable plea deal, you may be better off taking your case to court.

Request a Free OWI Defense Consultation at Mays Law Office in Middleton, WI

Do you need to know more about plea bargaining in Wisconsin OWI cases? If so, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To request a free consultation with an experienced OWI defense lawyer at Mays Law Office, please call 608-257-0440 or submit your information online today.

10 Key DUI Questions to Ask (and Answer) When Facing a DUI in Wisconsin

10 Key DUI Questions to Ask (and Answer) When Facing a DUI in Wisconsin

When facing a DUI charge in Wisconsin, it is critical to ensure that you are making informed decisions. There is a lot you need to know; and, if you make uninformed decisions, you could find yourself facing unnecessary consequences.

Making informed decisions starts with understanding the questions you need to ask. With this in mind, here are 10 key DUI questions to ask (and answer) when facing a DUI charge in Wisconsin:

Question #1: Which Type of DUI Charge Are You Facing?

There are two types of drunk driving charges in Wisconsin. If you took the breathalyzer during your DUI stop and blew above the legal limit, you are most likely being charged with prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC). If you refused the breathalyzer, couldn’t generate a reading, or blew under the legal limit, you are most likely being charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI).

While PAC and OWI charges are similar in some respects, there are also several key differences. As a result, determining whether you are facing a PAC charge or an OWI charge is one of the first steps toward determining what defenses you have available.

Question #2: Are You Facing Any Other Charges?

Along with determining whether you are facing a PAC charge or an OWI charge, you also need to determine whether you are facing any other charges as a result of your drunk driving arrest. There are several possibilities, including (but not limited to):

  • An implied consent violation (chemical test refusal)
  • An open container violation
  • Reckless driving and/or other traffic violations
  • Causing injury while OWI
  • Causing great bodily harm while OWI
  • Homicide while OWI

Each of these charges carries different penalties, and some of these charges are far more serious than others. But, you need to take all of the charges against you seriously, as any type of conviction can lead to financial costs and other consequences.

Question #3: When Is Your First Court Date?

Another key piece of information you need after a DUI arrest is your first court date. You need to make plans to be there on time, as failing to do so can have consequences regardless of whether you were driving under the influence. If you don’t show up, you can be charged with failure to appear, and this can result in a bench warrant being issued for your arrest.

Question #4: What Penalties Are You Facing?

Understanding the penalties you are facing will also help you make informed decisions about your defense. At a minimum, you are facing several hundred dollars in fines and surcharges plus a six to nine-month driver’s license suspension. But, if you are a repeat offender, or if you are being charged with causing a serious accident while driving under the influence, the penalties you are facing could be far greater.

Question #5: What Additional Consequences Are You Facing?

Along with court-imposed penalties, a PAC or OWI conviction can lead to various other consequences as well. These include everything from increased auto insurance premiums to disciplinary action if you are a licensed professional. Between increased insurance premiums, consequences for your career, and other financial costs, the collateral consequences of a drunk driving conviction can far exceed the costs you face in court.

Question #6: What Defenses Can You Assert in Court?

Given all that you have at stake, you must fight your PAC or OWI charge by all means available. Once you know what charge (or charges) you are facing, then you can determine which defenses you can use to protect yourself. Here, too, there are lots of possibilities—and the key is to ensure that you put together the strongest defense strategy possible in light of all relevant facts and circumstances.

Question #7: Do You Have Other Options for Avoiding a DUI Conviction?

Let’s say you were driving under the influence and prosecutors have the evidence they need to prove it. In this scenario, fighting your PAC or OWI charge in court might not be your best option. Instead, it might be best to consider another option—such as negotiating a plea bargain or entering into one of Wisconsin’s pre-trial diversion programs. Negotiating a plea bargain typically means facing the reduced consequences of a “wet reckless,” while entering into a pre-trial diversion program allows eligible defendants to avoid a conviction entirely.

Question #8: What Is Your Best Option Based on the Available Evidence?

Examining all of the available evidence will allow you to make an informed decision about how best to approach your case. This is a critical decision that could impact your life for years to come, so you need to ensure that you make it wisely.

Question #9: What Can a DUI Defense Lawyer Do to Help You?

When you are facing a DUI charge in Wisconsin, hiring an experienced defense lawyer is the best way to ensure that you are making informed decisions about your case. There are lots of ways an experienced defense lawyer will be able to help you, and you should schedule a free consultation to learn more as soon as possible.

Question #10: How Much Will You Pay for Your Legal Representation?

When you schedule a free consultation with a DUI defense lawyer, you should be able to find out exactly how much your legal representation is going to cost you. There should be no hidden costs or fees, and you should be able to weigh the costs of your legal representation against the potential costs of trying to handle your Wisconsin drunk driving case on your own.

Contact Us for a Free and Confidential Consultation with a Madison DUI Lawyer

If you are facing a drunk driving (PAC or OWI) charge in Wisconsin and would like to know more about your case, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a Madison DUI lawyer at Mays Law Office, please call 608-257-0440 or request an appointment online today.

Facing a DUI as a Licensed Professional in Wisconsin

Facing a DUI as a Licensed Professional in Wisconsin

 

While DUI charges carry steep penalties in Wisconsin, these aren’t the only potential consequences of a drunk driving arrest. Getting arrested for DUI can impact your life in a variety of other ways as well—especially if you are a licensed professional.

For physicians, pharmacists, registered nurses, attorneys, accountants, and other licensed professionals, DUI arrests can have serious implications for their careers. These arrests (like others) can trigger professional disciplinary action with potential outcomes ranging from reprimands to license revocation. As a result, a comprehensive and informed defense strategy is key, and licensed professionals must ensure that the decisions they make in their DUI cases do not put their licenses in jeopardy.

5 Important Considerations for Licensed Professionals Facing DUI Charges in Wisconsin

Here are five important considerations for licensed professionals facing DUI charges in Wisconsin:

1. You May Have an Obligation to Report Your DUI

Most professional licensing boards require that their members report DUIs promptly. Typically, this means separately reporting both your arrest and your conviction (if you accept a plea bargain or get convicted in court). If you enter into Wisconsin’s Pre-Charge Diversion Program, you may have an obligation to report this to your professional licensing board as well.

2. DUI Arrests Can Lead to Professional Discipline Even if They Don’t Lead to a Conviction

Along with understanding that you may need to report your DUI, one of the other most important things to understand about your situation is that a DUI arrest can lead to professional discipline even if it doesn’t result in a conviction. Why? Because professional licensing boards apply different standards than Wisconsin’s county courts. In court, prosecutors must prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that there must be no question that you are guilty of driving under the influence.

But, professional licensing boards typically use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This means the evidence only needs to suggest that it is more likely than not that you violated the governing rules of professional conduct. The rules governing your profession may also impose discipline for conduct short of driving under the influence such as drinking to excess, drinking in public, or using illegal drugs. As a result, any defenses you can assert in your DUI case won’t necessarily protect you in your professional disciplinary proceeding. Protecting your professional license may require a very different approach, and it will be critical to have a clear understanding of what exactly you need to defend against in both proceedings.

3. Failing to Report Your DUI Could Lead to Disciplinary Action

If you don’t report your DUI to your professional licensing board, this could have licensing consequences of its own. Failing to make a required disclosure can be considered a lack of candor under most professional licensing rules, and this itself can be grounds for professional discipline. This is true whether or not you eventually get convicted of driving under the influence. As a result, it is important to satisfy your reporting obligations—and to focus on preparing a sound defense instead of hoping to sidestep disciplinary action.

4. You Must Be Very Careful About How You Approach Your DUI Case

Due to the significant differences between DUI cases and professional disciplinary proceedings, you must be very careful about how you approach your DUI case. While certain statements and actions might be beneficial in your DUI case, these same statements and actions could potentially increase your exposure to professional discipline.

The reverse is also true. If you admit to driving under the influence during your professional disciplinary case, prosecutors may be able to use your admission against you in court. Again, an informed approach is critical, and you will need to work closely with your defense attorney to ensure that you do not say or do anything that could increase your risk of facing criminal penalties or losing your professional license.

5. Even if You Don’t Lose Your Professional License, a DUI Conviction Can Still Have Negative Career Consequences

Getting arrested for DUI (and even getting convicted of DUI) doesn’t necessarily mean that you will lose your professional license—though this may be a very real possibility. But, even if you don’t lose your license, a DUI conviction could still have significant and long-term negative consequences for your career.

A DUI conviction will go on your permanent record—and it will stay there. In Wisconsin, DUI convictions are not eligible for expungement. As a result, if you get convicted, your conviction will stay with you for the rest of your life. It will show up on background checks when you apply for new positions or seek funding to start your practice; and, as a result, you may lose access to certain opportunities. If your current employer decides that your DUI reflects negatively on your abilities or the organization’s reputation, you could lose your current job as well.

How Should You Approach Your DUI as a Licensed Professional in Wisconsin?

With all of this in mind, how should you approach your DUI? To ensure that you are doing everything you can to protect yourself, you should discuss your situation with an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced defense attorney will be able to explain the criminal and professional licensing implications of your arrest and will be able to help you make informed decisions while building your defense strategy.

When facing a DUI as a licensed professional, time is of the essence. Unnecessary delays (and other mistakes) can lead to unnecessary consequences. To discuss your situation with an experienced defense attorney in confidence, contact us today.

Schedule a Free DUI Defense Consultation at Mays Law Office in Madison, WI

If you are a licensed professional in Wisconsin and are currently facing a DUI charge, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. To schedule a free DUI defense consultation at Mays Law Office, please call 608-257-0440 or request an appointment online today.

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