Have you been charged with drunk driving?
For many people, a drunk driving charge is unfamiliar and overwhelming. With years of experience, the attorneys at Mays Law Office are highly skilled in handling DUI defense throughout Wisconsin and many other states. Click here to find out more about drunk driving charges or contact us today for an immediate consultation. Call Mays Law Office at 866-257-0440 now or use the e-mail contact form on the left side of this page.
Drunk Driving: DUI Basics
In every state, it is illegal for a driver to operate a motorized vehicle, whether it is a car, truck, motorcycle, boat, or commercial vehicle, while impaired by the effects of alcohol or drugs. In Wisconsin, a drunk driving offense is referred to as 'DUI' charges, which stands for 'Driving Under the Influence'.
A person may be charged with an DUI if they are driving a motorized vehicle and their ability to safely operate the vehicle is impaired by the effects of alcohol, illegal drugs, prescribed medications such as painkillers, or even over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines; or if the driver is intoxicated at a level above established DUI standards, such as the prohibited blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) levels, which in Wisconsin is .08 for a first, second, or third offenses and .02 for a fourth and higher offense.
Field Sobriety and Chemical Tests for DUI
If a law enforcement officer stops a vehicle and suspects that the driver may be intoxicated, the officer may conduct a series of "field sobriety" tests on the driver, and may ask for his or her consent to some form of chemical test for intoxication.
Field sobriety tests usually involve a police officer asking a driver to perform a number of tasks that assess any impairment of the person's physical or cognitive ability. Examples of field sobriety tests include having the driver walk a straight line, heel to toe; having the person stand on one leg for up to 30 seconds; and the officer's use of the "horizontal gaze nystagmus" (eye and penlight) test.
DUI chemical tests can be conducted by using an Intoximeter (breath test machine) that measures a driver's blood-alcohol concentration (BAC), or at a hospital, where urine and blood tests may be performed.
WISCONSIN DUI LAWS
Refusing a Chemical Test: "Implied Consent" Laws
Wisconsin has "implied consent" laws that require vehicle drivers to submit to some form of chemical test, such as breath, blood, or urine testing, if suspected of DUI. State legislators make these laws based on the logic that driving is a privilege and by accepting that privilege drivers effectively give their consent to DUI testing if it is reasonable to believe that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Implied content laws also establish penalties if a driver refuses to submit to testing; these penalties may include mandatory revocation of a driver's license, for a minimum of 1 year up to 3 years. Often, license sanctions for test refusal are more harsh than those imposed after DUI test failure.
Wisconsin "Per Se" Laws
Wisconsin law provides that any driver with a blood-alcohol concentration level about .08 is 'per se intoxicated', which means that if a driver has a BAC of .08, it is deemed that the driver is intoxicated and no additional proof of driving impairment is necessary for the officer to arrest and charge the driver with DUI.
A driver may be arrested for DUI without proof of 'per se intoxication' when other evidence of impaired driving is shown. For example, if a driver has a .06 BAC level, but was swerving or driving in an otherwise inappropriate manner and other evidence, such as slurred speech and inattention during questions were evident, an offer may arrest the driver on an DUI charge.
Wisconsin "Zero Tolerance" Laws
Wisconsin also provides a 'zero tolerance' law, which allows an officer to charge a person under the legal drinking age of 21 years with an DUI if the person was operating a vehicle and had any trace of alcohol in their system (BAC = 0.0).
The Penalties for DUI Conviction
First Conviction: In addition to facing a high monetary forfeiture and other associated court costs, your driving privileges will be revoked for 6 to 9 months following your first DUI conviction in Wisconsin. You will also be required to attend a mandatory alcohol education program and an alcohol treatment program. Additionally, your insurance company may increase your rates to an unmanageable level or you may lose coverage.
Second Conviction: A second DUI conviction results in driving privileges being revoked for 12 to 18 months, a minimum of 5 days to 6 months in jail, $350–$1,100 in fines plus associated court costs, and mandatory alcohol treatment.
Third Conviction: A third DUI conviction results in driving privileges being revoked for 2 to 3 years, 30 days to 1 year in jail, $600–$2,000 in fines, vehicle immobilization with an ignition interlock device (IID), and mandatory alcohol treatment.
Fourth Conviction: A fourth DUI conviction results in driving privileges being revoked for 2 to 3 years, 60 days to 1 year in jail, $600–$2,000 in fines, and mandatory alcohol treatment.
Fifth Conviction: A fifth and subsequent DUI conviction is a felony in Wisconsin. It results in a 2 to 3 year license revocation, 6 months to 6 years in jail, and $600–$10,000 in fines.
Criminal Penalties in Wisconsin
Wisconsin law provides criminal penalties, including fines, jail time, license revocation, and sometimes probation, for an DUI conviction. If convicted, the state prescribes minimum penalties for first and subsequent offences, which vary according to the circumstances that can be proven, such as:
- The driver's history of DUI violations and convictions;
- If a commercial vehicle was being used at the time of the DUI;
- Whether the DUI violation occurred while there was a child in the vehicle;
- Whether the DUI violation occurred simultaneously with another dangerous moving violation, such as reckless driving;
- If the DUI violation involved a car accident;
- If another person was injured or killed; and
- Whether the driver was under the legal drinking age at the time of the DUI violation.
Driving Privilege Penalties
In addition to criminal penalties, Wisconsin law also provides for administrative sanctions. An DUI arrest or conviction may have a very negative impact on driving privileges with the possibility of an immediate suspension by the department of motor vehicles; the same could apply to any person refusing to submit to chemical tests.
The driver's vehicle may also be confiscated or impounded, and the DUI offender will likely incur significant costs. This loss of driving privileges can occur even before an DUI conviction.
As with criminal penalties, the impact of an DUI arrest or conviction on driving privileges will vary according to the driver's history of DUI violations and the severity of the offense.
Getting an Attorney's Help
The legal system is complex and, while you have the constitutional right to represent yourself, it is likely you have never set foot in a courtroom to face prosecution if this is your first DUI offense. If this is a second or third offense, then you already know the crucial reasons and tremendous advantages of having a highly experienced DUI defense attorney.
Unlike a civil proceeding, in which money or property may be at stake, people charged with an DUI in Wisconsin are charged with a crime, facing the possibility of jail time and driver's license revocation. A person charged with a crime requires expert skills of a highly skilled and extensively experienced criminal defense attorney.
Attorney Stephen E. Mays practices in all areas of criminal and traffic defense in Madison and throughout the entire State of Wisconsin. If you have been charged with drunk driving (DUI, OWI, or DWI), call drunk driving defense attorney Stephen E. Mays today for a free case review.