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Bucher Law Group, LLC
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Walworth County criminal defense attorney OWI

Drunk driving is a threat to everyone on Wisconsin’s roads, resulting in over 5,000 car accidents each year and over 30 percent of the state’s annual car accident fatalities. For this reason, Wisconsin treats operating while intoxicated (OWI) as a serious criminal offense, with possible penalties including 10 years or more in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. However, first-time offenders in Wisconsin usually do not face criminal charges, and are therefore unlikely to see the full extent of these penalties. With the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney, you can work to ensure a fair outcome for your case, allowing you to reform your behavior without an excessive negative impact on your life.

How Does Wisconsin Define Operating While Intoxicated?

A person over the age of 21 can be arrested for OWI if he or she is found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08 percent, as determined by a blood or breath test at the time of the traffic stop. However, even if your BAC is below 0.08, an officer may arrest you if he or she has reason to believe that alcohol or any other drug is impairing your ability to drive safely.

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Ozaukee County criminal defense attorney OWI

Wisconsin has long been criticized for being the last state in the country to not criminalize a person’s first offense for operating a vehicle while they are intoxicated (OWI). While efforts are continuously being made to strengthen penalties for first-time OWI convictions, existing punishments for multiple OWI convictions can be strict, especially if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is relatively high when you are pulled over. Being convicted of an OWI not only means that you could face immense fines and other penalties but depending on your circumstances, this could also mean you now have a criminal record that could affect you for the rest of your life. If you have been charged with an OWI, you should speak with a Wisconsin OWI criminal defense attorney right away to protect your rights and driving privileges. 

Prohibited BAC Levels

In the state of Wisconsin, there is more than one way the law classifies whether a person is “intoxicated” when driving. You are considered to be operating while intoxicated if you:

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Racine County drunk driving accident injury attorney

There are very few crimes in the United States that could be accurately described as victimless. Most of the time, crimes that are committed will affect someone in some way, shape, or form. When it comes to a crime such as driving while under the influence of alcohol, also known in Wisconsin as OWI, there often are personal injury victims. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were more than 10,500 alcohol-related traffic deaths across the country in 2018 and many more alcohol-related injury- or damage-only crashes. Accidents involving drunk drivers are often traumatic for the victim, which is why the victim has the right to pursue compensation from the offender.

Pursuing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

When you get into a car accident with another person, you have a right to pursue compensation for damages that you may have sustained. This is true in Wisconsin, especially if you were in a collision with an intoxicated driver. Wisconsin operates on a system of comparative negligence when it comes to motor vehicle crashes. This means all parties involved have the potential to be partially at fault for the accident. As long as you were not found to be more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, you can pursue damages.

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Waukesha County OWI defense attorney

Even though Wisconsin tends to be one of the most lenient states when it comes to operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, there are still serious consequences that you can face if you are convicted of these criminal charges. By far, one of the most aggravating consequences of a Wisconsin OWI charge is the fact that you can have your driver’s license suspended or revoked. If this happens, you will be unable to drive for a specified period of time -- unless you have what is called an occupational driver’s license. This type of license allows a person to continue to drive during a suspension or revocation period for certain reasons. Although it is not an ideal situation overall, an occupational license can help immensely.

Eligibility for an Occupational License

If your driver’s license has been suspended because of OWI-related charges, you may be able to have a temporary occupational license issued. In general, most people will qualify for an occupational license if their license has been suspended because of an OWI arrest. However, under the following circumstances, you may not be eligible to receive an occupational license:

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Waukesha County OWI homicide defense attorney

When it comes to drunk driving laws, Wisconsin is relatively lenient compared to other states. In fact, Wisconsin is the only state in the country in which a first-time DUI offense is merely a ticket, rather than a criminal charge. Even when a person reaches his or her second, third, or even fourth conviction of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), the sentence typically does not involve jail time. Rather, probation is usually given to those offenders, even if their driving privileges were revoked. Jail time can be expected, however, if there are certain aggravating factors present in the situation to warrant a need for incarceration. Aggravating factors in a Wisconsin OWI case can include causing bodily harm or injury to another person, committing OWI with a child in the vehicle, or one of the most serious charges: homicide while committing OWI.

Charges for Homicide While Driving Under the Influence

In all 50 states, operating a vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal. Adding an aggravating factor to OWI, such as killing another person, makes the charges even more serious. In Wisconsin, a person commits the offense of homicide by intoxicated use of vehicle when he or she causes the death of another person due to the handling of the vehicle while he or she was under the influence of alcohol or any type of drug, had a BAC of 0.08 or more, or if he or she had a BAC of 0.04 or more and was driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). 

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