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Milwaukee OWI injury attorneyBy Attorney Cameron Weitzner

In Wisconsin, drunk driving injures 3,000 people and claims the lives of 150 people every year. It is no surprise that Wisconsin law treats operating while intoxicated (OWI) as a serious criminal offense, regardless of whether it results in any injuries. However, if you are arrested on charges of injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle, the penalties can be especially severe, and it is important that you have an attorney who can help you protect your rights.

Possible Charges for Causing Injury While OWI in Wisconsin

Wisconsin courts typically show leniency to those who are convicted of OWI for the first time, with offenders often facing a relatively small fine and a shorter driver’s license revocation period, and avoiding jail time entirely. However, a first offender who causes even a minor injury to another person is much less likely to be granted this leniency. In these cases, possible penalties include fines between $300 and $2,000, jail time of 30 days to one year, and a revoked license for at least a year beyond the end of the imprisonment sentence. There is a steep increase in penalties for someone who causes injury while OWI with any previous OWI conviction on their record. This is considered a Class H felony, with fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to six years.

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Milwaukee, WI criminal defense lawyer for first time OWI chargesIn Wisconsin, drunk driving is a factor in almost 3,000 injuries and 170 fatalities each year, and operating while intoxicated (OWI) is a criminal offense that can often result in serious consequences. If you are arrested under suspicion of driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol and have no prior record, you may be fortunate to avoid some of the more severe criminal penalties that apply for repeat offenders. Under certain circumstances, however, you may face the possibility of a criminal conviction, which can result in jail time, probation, and substantial fines that well exceed those typically associated with a first-time drunk driving offense.

Aggravating Factors in a First-Time OWI Arrest

In most cases, a first conviction for an OWI offense in Wisconsin results in a fine between $150 and $300, plus costs, and the revocation of the offender’s driver’s license for six to nine months. However, several additional factors can result in greater penalties, including:

  • Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.15 or refusing to submit to a chemical test of your breath, blood, or urine. If you are found guilty of a first-time OWI  with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or greater, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for up to a year, which carries with it its own expense. If you are convicted of a refusal to submit to testing, your driver’s license revocation will be one year, and your eligibility for an occupational license will be delayed.
  • Driving with a minor under the age of 16 in the vehicle. Having a minor passenger in your car will make what would be a municipal forfeiture a criminal misdemeanor, with increased fines of up to $1,100, an increased revocation period of up to 18 months, and up to six months in jail.
  • Causing injury while driving drunk. If it is your first OWI offense, and your operation result in pain or other injuries to another person, you will face fines up to $2,000, revocation of your license for up to two years, and up to one year of incarceration. These penalties may be even higher if you had a passenger under the age of 16 in your vehicle.
  • Causing great bodily harm while intoxicated. If drunk driving results in another person having a substantial injury that, for example, can lead to permanent disability or disfigurement, you may be charged with a Class F felony, which carries severe penalties, including up to 12.5 years in prison.
  • Homicide while driving intoxicated. The most serious drunk driving offense, causing an accident resulting in another person’s death, can result in Class D felony charges with up to $100,000 in fines, up to 25 years in prison, and a revoked license for five years or more.

No matter what type of intoxicated driving offense you are facing, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can provide quality legal representation.

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wisconsin owi penalties, milwaukee criminal defense lawyerA new law enacted by the Wisconsin Legislature and signed by Governor Walker in April 2016, became effective on January 1, 2017, sharply increases penalties on repeat drunk driving cases

2015 Wisconsin Act 371 makes a fourth drunk driving offense a felony for all purposes, regardless of when the previous OWI convictions occurred.  Under previous law, a fourth offense OWI would constitute a felony only if it was committed within five (5) years of a third offense drunk driving conviction.  Otherwise, it remained a misdemeanor. Act 371 eliminates this distinction.

A fourth offense OWI conviction is a Class H felony, carrying a maximum potential sentence of six (6) years in prison, a mandatory minimum period of incarceration and fines up to $10,000.

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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:

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operating while intoxicated, drunk driving penalties, Wisconsin criminal defense attorneyThe Wisconsin state legislature has attempted to take a hard line when it comes to the crime of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). One major part of this effort has been their institution of mandatory minimum sentences for repeat OWI offenders. However, the exact length of the mandatory minimum depends on the number of previous OWIs, how long ago they were, and a variety of other factors. The result is that the mandatory minimum sentence for the crime can range anywhere from just a few days to four years in prison.

Now, a recent report by Gannett Wisconsin Media has revealed that some judges are not abiding by these mandatory minimums, and are issuing more lenient sentences. Although some are concerned about the fact that this report shows judges exceeding their authority, it also highlights the controversial nature of mandatory minimum sentences.

The Report

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