4 Things to Know About DUI Charges in Wisconsin
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As of December 31, 2021, over 777,000 Wisconsin residents with current and valid driver’s licenses have been convicted of operating while impaired at least once. Despite the frequency with which Wisconsin drivers are arrested and charged with OWI, you might still harbor misconceptions about this offense.
These misunderstandings about DUI law in Wisconsin can lead to errors and missteps. Four of the more surprising facts about Wisconsin’s OWI law are:
1. You Can Be Convicted of DUI Even if Your Alcohol Level Is Below 0.08
Some drivers believe a myth about DUI law in Wisconsin that says you cannot be convicted of the offense if your alcohol concentration is below 0.08. While 0.08 is the legal limit for alcohol, you can face DUI/OWI charges if the officer believes you have any alcohol or drugs in your system and cannot safely drive because of them.
You can even be convicted of DUI or OWI without the prosecutor having proven that you had any specific alcohol concentration.
2. Legal Drugs Can Make You Too Impaired to Legally Drive
If you take prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications, you may want to read the warning labels carefully. Be cautious about driving after having taken any substance that can make you drowsy or dizzy. Wisconsin’s DUI/OWI statute penalizes operating a motor vehicle while you are under the influence of “any” medication to the extent that you cannot safely drive.
3. An Officer Can Pull You Over for Any Traffic Violation and Conduct an OWI Investigation
While erratic driving can certainly catch the attention of nearby cops and cause them to conduct a traffic stop on you, they do not need this level of certainty to stop your car and investigate you for DUI. All officers need is specific facts that suggest you may have committed or are committing a crime or traffic offense.
If officers have this level of evidence, they can stop your vehicle. If, in doing so, they smell alcohol on your person or notice signs suggesting you are under the influence, they can expand the purpose of their stop and conduct a DUI investigation.
State and federal laws have acknowledged that the initial stop of your vehicle can be pretextual and for a reason other than the investigation of DUI.
4. First-Time DUI Offenders Can Face Jail Time
You will not initially face jail time in an ordinary first-time DUI case. However, some first-time DUI offenders in Wisconsin face the prospect of jail. Most notably, if you are under the influence and you have a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle with you, you can face a mandatory jail sentence even if this offense is your first OWI.
Similarly, the law allows for mandatory jail even for a first-time DUI offender if the person caused an injury or fatal wreck while under the influence.
Your Next Steps Following a Car Accident in Wisconsin
Challenge your DUI charges with information, not speculation. Call for and connect with an experienced car accident lawyer who can look into the injuries you sustained and the facts of your case.
An attorney can help clear up any confusion or misconceptions you have about Wisconsin’s OWI/DUI laws that can get in the way of making informed choices about how best to address your charges.