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Sleeping Off a Long Night of Drinking and OWI Charges

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Wisconsin defense attorney, Wisconsin criminal lawyer, Milwaukee drunk driving attorneyMany people are unaware that they can be arrested for operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OWI) of alcohol, even if they are sleeping in their automobile. Wisconsin law prohibits anyone from operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, among other things, that render them incapable of safely driving. The law defines what penalties you may be subject to and even defines what qualifies as an intoxicant. However, the law conveniently fails to define the term ‘operating.’

Courts generally interpret the term ‘operating,’ broadly. However, courts will look at the totality of the circumstances to determine, whether or not, you were capable of operating the automobile. If you are asleep in the front seat with the keys in the ignition and lights on, the court may rule that you were capable of operating the automobile under the law. However, if your keys were in the trunk, lights were off and you were asleep in the back seat of the car, the judge might rule differently. If the automobile was completely disabled, unable to turn on, then you may have a strong defense against OWI charges.

Factors Courts Consider

As stated above, the court will look at the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest to make a determination if you were about to operate an automobile under Wisconsin law. These factors may include:

  • The location of your automobile;
  • Whether your automobile was on or off the road;
  • Where your physical body was located;
  • Whether the automobile engine was on or off;
  • Where the keys were located;
  • How accessible the keys were to you;
  • Whether the lights or radio were on;
  • The weather on the night in question;
  • Whether you were awake or asleep;
  • Whether or not you were moving the automobile; and
  • The operability of your automobile.

 The court will look at all or some of these factors when determining whether or not you were operating an automobile in violation of Wisconsin law.

Consult an Attorney

Obviously, the best option is not to get behind the wheel after drinking in the first place. If your effort to sleep it off failed and you were charged with an OWI, you should contact an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorney who will protect your rights and aggressively fight the charges.

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