How Does Wisconsin Rank for Drunk Driving Arrests?

Information about how Wisconsin ranks for drunk driving arrests from a respected Racine criminal defense attorney.

According to the latest available figures from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT),more than 33,500 Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) arrests were made in Wisconsin during 2012. As of December 31st, 2012 more than 413,754 Wisconsin drivers had at least one OWI on their criminal record. Another 192,841 drivers had between two and five OWI convictions. There were 5,582 drivers who had between six and 10 OWI convictions and another 70 who had been convicted between 11-15 times for OWI. Two drivers were on record for having 16 OWI convictions each.

In a report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in April 2009, Wisconsin was on record for having the highest rate of drunk driving nationwide. This is not entirely surprising considering Wisconsin is the only state where a first-time OWI is a civil offense, not a criminal one.

Penalties for OWI in Wisconsin

Neither law enforcement nor the prosecution in the state of Wisconsin are lenient with individuals who have been accused of driving under the influence (DUI) or operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Due to the risk involved, those arrested and charged with OWI in Wisconsin could easily find themselves facing harsh penalties such as:

  • First-time OWI offender: up to $300 in fines and driver’s license revocation for between 6-9 months. Additional penalties will apply if a minor under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time of arrest.
  • Second-time OWI offender, providing there have been no prior OWI within the past 10 years: Fines up to $300, as well as the revocation of driving privileges for up to nine months. In cases where the driver’s BAC level is 0.15 or more, the driver will be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed and maintained on his or her vehicle for one year.
  • Second-time OWI offender, with a prior OWI within the past 10 years: up to $1,100 in fines, a maximum incarceration of six months, a mandatory 12-18 month driver’s license suspension and the installation of an IID.

Additional OWI offense will lead to increased charges and penalties. For example, a fourth OWI conviction with a prior conviction within the past five years is a Class H felony offense. This type of crime is punishable by up to six years in prison, fines up to $10,000, the revocation of driving privileges for at least two years and more. Insurance companies will generally increase premiums for those individuals who have an OWI conviction.

Being placed under arrest for a suspected OWI can be a very frightening experience, and can have long-term consequences on your future. The best way to avoiding an OWI conviction is to not get behind the wheel of your vehicle after you have been consuming alcohol or taking any type of drug, prescription or otherwise. But if you find yourself pulled over for alleged driving under the influence, remember these key points.

  • Be polite. Do not be rude or belligerent. You do not want to put yourself in a position of having other accusations of criminal misconduct, such as resisting arrest, levied against you.
  • Do not attempt to argue or prove your innocence. In most cases, the officer has already made a decision to place you under arrest and is simply looking for additional evidence to show probable cause.
  • Be observant. Notice where you are and take mental note of what you are being asked to do. Does the officer seem to know what he or she is doing? Is the officer trying to rush through field sobriety tests? Was a breathalyzer used to determine your BAC level? Did anything distract the officer during the arrest process?

Each of these things could have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. One of the most important steps you can take following an OWI arrest is to hire an attorney to represent your case. There is no reason you need to fight OWI charges on your own.

Criminal defense attorney Patrick Cafferty can provide you with the aggressive representation you require. To find out what our firm can do for you, call us now to schedule a free consultation.

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