Driving under the influence, or operating while intoxicated (DUI/OWI), is a serious problem across the nation. The state of Wisconsin is no exception. In 2022, there were approximately 23,000 convictions for operating while intoxicated, and it’s estimated that someone is injured or killed by an impaired driver every two hours. 

The consequences of an OWI arrest are far-reaching and may include jail time, costly fines, and stress in your personal and professional relationships. Not every OWI arrest leads to conviction because not everyone who is accused of driving while impaired is guilty of the crime. 

If you or someone you know needs legal representation after an arrest, DUI/OWI attorneys in Sun Prairie, WI, can help. OWI laws in Wisconsin can be confusing. Having an experienced attorney on your side is the best way to make sure your rights are protected. 

Understanding OWI Laws in Wisconsin

There are two main scenarios under which someone might be charged with operating while intoxicated in WI. The first is operating a motor vehicle of any kind with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more when measured by a breathalyzer. 

The second is through observation. If an officer observes that your behavior has been affected by drugs or alcohol, you can be arrested even if your blood alcohol content is below 0.08.

Several related charges can be added to an OWI. Some of those charges include:

  • Exceedingly high blood alcohol content levies heavier penalties
  • Commercial drivers may lose their commercial licenses for one year
  • Driving under the influence with passengers under the age of 16 may incur a child endangerment charge
  • Circumventing an ignition interlock device may increase fines and jail time

Drivers under the age of 21, which is the legal drinking age in the United States, will have their license revoked. A 90-day suspension is typical for first-time offenders.

10 Strategies for Fighting an OWI

Being charged with a DUI/OWI does not necessarily mean you are or will be found guilty, especially with an experienced attorney representing you. Several strategies can be used to successfully fight an OWI charge. 

1. Prove Errors in the Arrest Procedure

Police officers are trained professionals, but they are also human beings who can make mistakes. Any errors made by the police, including errors in paperwork and traffic stops made for non-specific reasons, can lead to the suppression of evidence. 

2. Challenge Breath Test Validity

Breathalyzer tests are not always accurate. Inaccuracies in a breathalyzer’s RFI detectors and even the amount of air a person blows into the tester can affect the results. It takes only a small margin of error to push a BAC into the illegal zone. 

In addition, breathalyzers require regular maintenance. If inspection shows calibration and maintenance records to be lacking, the integrity of the test may be compromised. 

3. Challenge Field Sobriety Tests

An individual’s performance on field sobriety tests can be affected by other things besides alcohol. Physical limitations, prescription medications, confusion, stress, hearing problems, and mental health concerns may be the cause of poor performance. 

4. Challenge Blood Test Validity

Blood tests are generally more accurate than breath tests, but they can also present problems. Test results may be excluded if all specific regulations were not followed. The chain of custody issues could cast doubt on the validity of blood test evidence. 

5. Suppress Evidence Obtained Illegally

A key strategy when defending against an OWI charge is the suppression of evidence that was found during an illegal search or without probable cause. Unlawful search and seizure is a Fourth Amendment issue. If the arresting officer conducted a search without cause, your OWI case may be overturned. 

6. Identify Rights Violations

If you were not read your Miranda rights, or if police officers violated your rights in other ways during the arrest, it could force the court to drop OWI charges.

7. Investigate OWI Checkpoint

Setting up checkpoints near popular taverns like the Frog Pond is one way law enforcement tries to reduce the frequency of drunk driving. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the legality of DUI/OWI checkpoints, but that doesn’t mean every checkpoint meets the standards for legal enforcement. 

Your DUI/OWI attorney will investigate the specifics of the checkpoint where you were arrested and confirm all procedures were within the law. 

8. Negotiate and Arrange a Plea Bargain

A defense attorney with keen negotiation skills can lead a prosecutor to drop the case or offer a deal for a lesser charge. 

9. Help You Retain Your Driving Privileges

Some strategies may be available to avoid the suspension of your driver’s license. Missed deadlines, incorrect filing, and other common mistakes in the administration of an OWI charge could be used to help you maintain driving privileges. 

10. Devise Alternative Defenses

Every DUI/OWI case is different. It is always possible that unique circumstances, such as involuntary intoxication, led to your arrest. Your attorney will explore these possibilities to build a strong OWI defense. 

Wisconsin DUI/OWI Penalties

If you are found guilty of an OWI in Wisconsin, the penalties can be severe. Penalties for the first offense include fines of $150 to $300, surcharges, and suspension of your driver’s license for up to 9 months. 

With a second offense, you may be sentenced to up to six months in jail and a license suspension of at least 12 months. The fines for multiple offenses increase sharply and range from $600 to $2,000.

There is a minimum jail sentence of 45 days for a third offense. Fines range from $600 to $2,000. Jail time increases to 60 days for the fourth offense, and you may be charged with a Class H felony. The fine for a Class H felony is up to $10,000 and/or up to six years in prison. 

If you are arrested for OWI five or more times in Wisconsin, you can be charged with a Class G felony. You may serve up to 10 years in prison and be required to pay a fine of $600 to $25,000. You can expect your driver’s license to be revoked for two to three years. 

The severity of the penalties is another reason to engage a DUI/OWI attorney. An attorney may be able to have charges dropped or reduced, saving you time, money, inconvenience, and public embarrassment. 

What to Do if You Are Arrested for DUI/OWI

If you’re pulled over for suspicion of OWI, the first action is to stay calm and respectful. Arguing or fighting with police officers will not help your situation. Answer all questions politely, but do not volunteer information. The less you speak, the better. 

You are not legally required to take field sobriety tests or a breathalyzer test in WI. However, if you refuse field sobriety tests, you will be arrested immediately. If you are arrested, you will be required to take a breath or blood test. After arrest, you will be taken to the Sun Prairie Police Department on East Main St. for booking.

Be cooperative. Submitting to law enforcement will help your case in the long run. Call an experienced DUI/OWI as soon as you are able. 

Maciolek Law Group Can Help

With Maciolek Law Group on your side, it may be possible to beat an OWI case. We will conduct a thorough investigation to explore the validity of OWI evidence. Making sure your rights were not violated during a search or at an OWI checkpoint is critical. 

Contact Maciolek Law Group today if you need experienced legal representation to build a strong defense against an unfair OWI charge. 

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