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

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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.