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Bucher Law Group, LLC

"Sitting While Intoxicated" - A Punishable Offense?

Many people assume that operating a motor vehicle is synonymous with driving a motor vehicle. However, assumptions are dangerous, and this common misconception could very well lead to a conviction for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

An operator of a motor vehicle is defined under Wisconsin statute as "the physical manipulation or activation of any of the controls of a motor vehicle necessary to put it in motion." See Wis. Stat. sec. 346.63(3)(b). Wisconsin courts have interpreted this language in various ways depending on the factual underpinnings of each case. For instance, in Milwaukee Co. v. Proegler, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the judgment of conviction entered by the lower court, finding the defendant guilty of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant. See Milwaukee Co. v. Proegler, 95 Wis.2d 614, 291 N.W.2d 608 (Ct. App. 1980).

In Proegler, the defendant was found sleeping behind the steering wheel of a pickup truck parked partially on the right emergency ramp of I-43. The keys were in the ignition, the motor was running, and the lights and heater were on. The automatic transmission shift lever was in the park position. The defendant later testified to having parked his vehicle and fallen asleep for a few hours before he was found by police. The results of a Breathalyzer test indicated that defendant's blood contained 0.2 percent by weight of alcohol.

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