OWIs and Refusal Hearings – New Case Law

The Supreme Court continues to deal with drunk driving and driving while impaired cases. In the matter of the refusal of Dimitrius Anagnos, the Supreme Court made a significant decision by allowing defendants in refusal hearings to challenge the legality of the traffic stop. Initially, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that an individual may challenge the lawfulness of a stop at a refusal hearing. The state of Wisconsin appealed, indicating that a defendant could not raise the constitutionality of a traffic stop as a defense in a refusal, because the refusal statute is very limited. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the Court of Appeals and the trial court, and dealt the State of Wisconsin a significant blow. The Supreme Court indicated that defendants in refusal hearings may, in fact, challenge the legality of the traffic stop.

The Court concluded that the refusal statute does not limit the Court in considering whether the officer had probable cause to believe the defendant was operating under the influence of an intoxicant. This is a significant victory for an individual in these types of situations. Previously, the law simply required the state to prove that probable cause existed that the defendant was driving and the Implied Consent law was followed. This case now opens the door to allow defendants in refusal hearings to challenge the legality of the traffic stop, as well as the legality of the arrest. As part of that analysis, the Circuit Court may now entertain argument that the arrest was unlawful because the traffic stop was not justified by reasonable suspicion. The Court further found that the refusal statute does not limit a defendant to contesting whether the officer had probable cause to believe that the defendant was operating under the influence. The Court may entertain the argument that an arrest was unlawful because the traffic stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion and the arrest was not supported by probable cause.

In light of the significant changes made by the Wisconsin Legislature to the OAWI law, it becomes even more important for individuals to contact Bucher Law Group, LLC, as soon as possible. This is especially true if a refusal is involved, so we may request a refusal hearing within the 10 days allotted. Once you lose that right, it is lost forever. It is now a more important right than ever before.

Do not hesitate to contact Bucher Law Group, LLC, with any questions regarding this issue. We can assist you with the wide variety of issues concerning this topic — OWIs, refusal hearings, administrative hearings, etc.