What You Need To Know About DUI/OWI

The laws concerning "drunk driving" have been made progressively more stringent and complicated over the last twenty-five (25) years. The laws are not only confusing for the lay person; they are confusing for lawyers who do not regularly handle "drunk driving" cases. One major problem with "drunk driving" cases is that you may have to take action very rapidly; in some cases, within ten (10) days of your arrest.

OWI/DUI - For practical purposes, OWI/DWI/DUI are all the same thing. The "O" means operating (such as sitting in a parked car that is turned "on" on the side of the road). The "D" means driving. The penalties are the same. Wisconsin does not distinguish between "impaired" and being "under the influence." It's all one charge.

PAC - This means operating a vehicle with "prohibited alcohol content" in your blood. A prohibited alcohol content is different for different people. For some people, it is .08, for others it is .04, for others it is .02. Which level applies to you depends on your driving history, prior or existing suspensions, type of vehicle you are driving and other factors.

Most people receive both an OWI ticket and a PAC ticket at some point in their case.

Remember, just because some test says you were over the legal limit when you took the test does not mean that you were over the legal limit when you were driving.

OWI/PAC charge - If you go to court on the day indicated on your ticket and you want to fight the charge, you must plead "not guilty" and request a jury trial in writing, and pay either $36 for a six-person jury or $72 for a twelve-person jury. If you don't request the jury in writing and pay for it within ten (10) days of your "not guilty" plea, you forfeit the right to a jury trial in a first time OWI case. In OWI 2nd and higher cases, you get a jury trial automatically. We will take care of this for you, but if you go to court before we see you, protect your rights by asking for and paying for your jury trial.

Administrative Review - After you are arrested, the officer will usually take you to the hospital for a blood test. Your blood sample will be mailed to Madison and the result will come back in about two (2) or three (3) weeks. (Driving under the influence of drug cases take much longer). When the police get your blood test result, they will send you a PAC ticket and a notice that your license will be suspended thirty (30) days from the date they send you the notice, unless you request an administrative review. You must request the administrative review within thirteen (13) days of the day it is mailed to you by filling in the information requested in the box on the form and mailing the form to the address indicated for the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you don't, your license will be suspended for six (6) months regardless of whether you win or lose your OWI/PAC case. The review hearing will occur within a couple weeks of your request. If you win, you won't have an immediate suspension of your license, but you still could if you are eventually found guilty in your OWI/PAC case. If you lose your administrative review, you can still have the judge review the administrative review by requesting that as indicated on the form you receive telling you that you lost the administrative review. If, instead of a blood test, you had an Intoxilyzer test (breath test) at the police station, you must ask for the administrative review within ten (10) days of your arrest (because the police will hand you the form at the police station).

Refusal - After you are arrested for drunk driving, the police will read you an "Informing the Accused" form which ends by asking you if you will submit to a test of your breath, blood or urine. If you say "no" or fail to cooperate with the officer, they will accuse you of refusing to submit to the test. This may occur even if you change your mind and say "yes." If you have a prior OWI conviction, they will force you to take the blood or breath test and still accuse you of refusing. There are serious penalties for not submitting to their test. If you want to challenge their allegation, you must request a hearing by mailing a request to the Clerk of Courts in the county where you were arrested within ten (10) days of your arrest. The request only needs to say, "I request a hearing on the allegation that I refused a (breath/blood) test on the ____ day of ____, 20__." If you don't, your driving privilege will be revoked for twelve (12) months shortly after the ten (10) days is up and you will have to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in every car you own and every car you drive for one year at a cost of about $1,000 per car. We will prepare the request for you if you get to our office in time. Otherwise, send it in yourself, and we will handle the hearing for you when the time comes. Frequently, people do not even know that they are being charged with "refusal" (i.e. lost their paperwork). If you are not sure, send in the request.

IID - Ignition Interlock Device. Everyone who is convicted of OWI 1st with a PAC over .15, every OWI 2nd and up conviction and every refusal conviction will result in a requirement that you install an IID in every car you drive and every car you own ($1,000 per car). If you are subject to an IID order, your permissible PAC level while driving is only .02. (That's about one (1) beer for the average male and two-thirds () of one (1) beer for the average female).

The OWI case itself - There are a number of ways we can win an OWI case for you. The mere fact that we are able to fight an OWI case for you will get you a better deal than trying to do it yourself or hiring a lawyer who does not handle many such cases. Even without a trial, we may be able to get the case thrown out of court, get reduced jail time, avoid an IID or get reduced suspensions, revocations or fines. There are too many approaches to a "drunk driving" trial to list here. For that, we need to discuss your case with you in person. If you want to hire us, don't talk about your case with an Assistant District Attorney.

CDL - Commercial Driver's License. This is for people who drive commercially. One OWI conviction after September 30, 2005 will result in a one (1) year disqualification. A second OWI conviction after September 30, 2005 will result in a fifty-five (55) year disqualification. Disqualification will start at the moment your license is suspended or revoked. Serious offenses other than OWI can also lead to disqualifications. Make an appointment to see us as fast as possible.

Occupational license - Occupational licenses are available either as soon as your license is suspended or shortly thereafter. There are no CDL occupational licenses. We will help you obtain your occupational license, if necessary.

Out of state drivers - You have unique problems which are different than Wisconsin drivers have. You can't get an occupational license in Wisconsin. Other states may punish you more for your Wisconsin conviction than Wisconsin does (particularly Illinois). We are familiar with these problems. Make an appointment soon.

Overall, speed is of the essence. Make an appointment as soon as possible and take the action described above if your appointment is after one of the applicable deadlines. This is a short list of the problems people face when accused of "drunk driving." This is only a partial list; space does not permit all of the issues to be set forth herein.