February 05, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Recently, Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel - who is also currently running for state attorney general - expressed his doubts as to whether Wisconsin roads would actually be safer if first-time drunk driving violations were made criminal offenses, according to a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Under current Wisconsin law, a drunk driving offense - otherwise known as operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) - is treated more like a speeding ticket than criminal charges for first-time offenders. Given that payments from these tickets presently go into municipal budgets, municipal funding could decrease significantly if first-time OWI charges
became criminal offenses as the money would likely go to the state instead, according to Schimel.
Consequently, Schimel maintains, taking money out of local coffers may have the unintended consequence of making the roads more unsafe if municipalities are forced to lay off police due to lack of funds.
OWI penalties in Wisconsin
While it is quite likely that this debate will continue for some time, it is important to note that just because first-time OWI charges are typically not criminal offenses in Wisconsin - merely civil - that does not mean they are not serious offenses or that they do not carry harsh consequences. Indeed, first-time OWI offenders in Wisconsin can face several penalties, including:
- Revocation of the driver's license for 6 to 9 months
- Forfeiture ranging from $150 to $300 (plus costs)
- Compulsory installation of ignition interlock devices for one year on all vehicles owned by the driver if he or she had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 percent or more at the time of arrest or improperly refused chemical testing, such as a breathalyzer
- Required alcohol assessment by an approved public treatment facility, followed by possible treatment or additional education
Furthermore, the punishment for a first-time offender can increase substantially if his or her actions result in an injury. For instance, if an intoxicated driver injures another while driving, he or she can be fined $300 to $2000 and face 30 days to one year in county jail. Also, if a passenger under the age of 16 happens to be in the car at the time the drunk driver causes injury, the offense increases to a possible felony and the penalties double.
Repercussions for subsequent OWI convictions can also be quite severe, even if no injuries occur. For example, a second OWI arrest within 10 years of the first can result in a punishment of 5 days to 6 months in jail and a fine ranging from $350 to $1,100 - in addition to a license revocation of 12 to 18 months, mandatory IID installation and a required alcohol assessment.
Seek legal assistance if needed
Ultimately, Wisconsin OWI laws - and their corresponding penalties - are quite complicated, with each specific charge having its own distinct punishment. Given these complexities, it is nearly impossible to elaborate on all of the possible penalties that an individual may face if charged with an OWI-related offense in Wisconsin. Accordingly, if you have been arrested for drunk driving, it is often best to seek the advice of an experienced OWI defense attorney who can help outline your rights and options.
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