Can I receive an OWI while snowmobiling?

Is it possible to commit OWI while snowmobiling?

As we approach winter in Wisconsin, many snowmobile enthusiasts ask the same question: can I be arrested for OWI while snowmobiling?  The quick answer is yes.  Wisconsin drunk driving law includes operating any motor vehicle.  This includes snowmobiles.  Drunk driving penalties escalate along the same scheme as those involving normal passenger vehicles.  That means your first offense is a non-criminal forfeiture, a second offense is a misdemeanor involving mandatory jail, and a fourth is a felony.

While that’s a quick summarization of penalties (we’ll provide a more detailed explanation later in this post), it’s clear how serious a conviction for snowmobile OWI is.

The drunk driving defense attorneys at Van Severen Law Office, S.C. have a significant amount of experience fighting charges just like these.  Whether it’s your first offense or your tenth, we’ve helped individuals through drunk driving cases involving many different issues.  We’ve challenged illegal police stops, illegal police conduct, and filed various other pre-trial motions challenging the constitutionality of police actions in criminal cases.  We can help.  Contact us at (414) 270-0202 to begin discussing your case with one of our defense lawyers.

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What is the law for OWI while snowmobiling?

Section 346.63(1)(a) of the Wisconsin Statutes governs operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.  The law says:

346.63  Operating under influence of intoxicant or other drug.
(1)  No person may drive or operate a motor vehicle while:
(a) Under the influence of an intoxicant, a controlled substance, a controlled substance analog or any combination of an intoxicant, a controlled substance and a controlled substance analog, under the influence of any other drug to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving, or under the combined influence of an intoxicant and any other drug to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving;
(35) “Motor vehicle” means a vehicle, including a combination of 2 or more vehicles or an articulated vehicle, which is self-propelled, except a vehicle operated exclusively on a rail. “Motor vehicle” includes, without limitation, a commercial motor vehicle or a vehicle which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires but not operated on rails. A snowmobile, an all-terrain vehicle, a utility terrain vehicle, an electric scooter, and an electric personal assistive mobility device shall be considered motor vehicles only for purposes made specifically applicable by statute. “Motor vehicle” does not include an electric bicycle.
Snowmobiles are explicitly included in the definition statute, removing any question as to whether they’re included in OWI law.

Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 2663 – Operating a snowmobile while under the influence of an intoxicant

Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 2663 provides us the jury instructions for operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.  Jury instructions break down crimes into separate elements.  At the time of a trial (whether a court trial or a jury trial), the fact finder determines whether the government successfully proves each of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt.  If the government cannot do that, the defendant cannot be found guilty.

The elements for operating while under of the influence of an intoxicant while on a snowmobile are as follows:

  • Firstly, the defendant drove or operated a snowmobile on a highway.  Operate means the physical manipulation or activation of any of the controls of a snowmobile necessary to put it in motion; and
  • Secondly, the defendant was under the influence of an intoxicant at the time he drove or operated the snowmobile.

You probably quickly noticed that the instructions mention highways.  Snowmobiles may cross highways, but typically operate on dedicated trails that are open to the public.  Unfortunately, that’s of no real importance.  Courts include “all premises held out to the public for use of their motor vehicles, whether such premises are publicly or privately owned and whether or not a fee is charged for the use thereof.”  This broad definition includes most locations individuals typically operate snowmobiles.

What are the penalties for drunk driving a snowmobile?

As previously mentioned, the penalties for OWI by snowmobile are the same as those using a normal passenger vehicle.  They include:

  • First offense snowmobiling OWI: A first offense OWI is a non-criminal charge in Wisconsin, and therefore cannot result in a jail penalty.  Instead, the driver faces a penalty including a 6-9 month driver license revocation and a fine of between $150.00 and $300.00.  If the operator of the snowmobile had over a .015 blood alcohol concentration, he is required to install an ignition interlock device for 12 months.
  • Second offense snowmobiling OWI: A second offense OWI is a criminal offense and a criminal misdemeanor.  The jail penalty attached to this conviction starts with a mandatory 5 days and runs to a potential maximum of 6 months.  Fines for an OWI 2nd are between $350.00 and $1,100.00.  Finally, a second offense OWI results in an ignition interlock device requirement of 12-18 months.
  • Third offense snowmobiling OWI: A third offense OWI is also a criminal misdemeanor and results in escalating penalties.  Penalties include jail ranging between a mandatory 45 days and a full year.  Fines are $600.00 to $2,000.00.  Finally, the ignition interlock device requirement and driver license revocation are 2-3 years.

Can I be charged with felony OWI while on a snowmobile?

If you have three prior counted offenses, a fourth offense OWI in Wisconsin is a felony.  This even applies to offense committed while operating a snowmobile.  Felony penalties for operating a snowmobile while intoxicated include:

  • A 4th offense OWI is the first drunk driving charge that will result in a felony conviction.  Specifically, it’s a Class H felony, punishable by up to 6 years in prison.  Importantly, a mandatory minimum penalty of 60 days applies to this sentence.  While a sentence to prison isn’t required, a sentence of at least 60 days is.  Fines for this charge range between $600.00 and $10,000.00.  Your driver license will be revoked for 2-3 years, and you’ll be required to install an ignition interlock device for 1-3 years.
A man operates a snowmobile while intoxicated
Wisconsin law prohibits operating while intoxicated. This even applies to OWI while snowmobiling. If you’re facing any kind of drunk driving charge, contact us immediately for help: (414) 270-0202.

Snowmobiling while OWI convictions that will result in prison:

Your fourth offense OWI was a felony, but there was a chance you weren’t sentenced to prison.  Moving forward, mandatory minimum penalties for OWI include require a prison sentence.

  • OWI 5th on a snowmobile, OWI 6th on a snowmobile – Penalties for OWI on a snowmobile 5th and 6th offenses fall within the same penalty category.  That being said, it’s safe to say that courts typically sentence 6th offenses more harshly than 5th offenses.  Both charges result in a mandatory prison sentence of at least 1 year.  The maximum sentence is 10 years in prison, making both charges Class G felonies.  A conviction also results in fines of $600.00 – $25,000.00, a 2-3 year driver license revocation, and a 1-3 year ignition interlock device.
  • OWI 7th on a snowmobile, OWI 8th on a snowmobile, and OWI 9th on a snowmobile – Just as the previous offenses were concerned, 7th, 8th, and 9th OWI offenses all share the same penalty structure.  These OWI charges are all Class F felonies, with penalties ranging between a mandatory 3 years in prison and a maximum of 12.5 years prison.  A conviction results in a 2-3 year driver license revocation and a 1-3 year ignition interlock device requirement.
  • 10th and subsequent OWI on a snowmobile – 10th offense OWIs, along with all subsequent charges, all follow the same penalty structure.  A 10th, 11th, 20th, or any OWI offense after 10 is a Class E felony, meaning the maximum penalty is 15 years in prison.  Additionally, the defendant faces a 2-3 year driver license revocation and a 1-3 year ignition interlock device requirement.

Looking for the best OWI defense lawyer in Wisconsin?

Van Severen Law Office, S.C. and its criminal defense defense attorneys are consistently recognized as some of the best in Wisconsin.  We defend all sorts of OWIs, including those based on passenger vehicles and those involving snowmobiles.  Importantly, we defend all offenses, ranging from the first offense OWI on.

Secondly, we offer free consultations to individuals considering hiring one of our drunk driving lawyers.  Over the course of an hour we’ll discuss your case (or what we know if it), the issues that appear on the front end, how we imagine defending it, and answer any questions you have.  You’ll have the opportunity to decide whether you’ll proceed with our firm.  It’s at that point that representation begins and we’ll start fighting your case.

Contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C. at (414) 270-0202 to begin discussing your case with one of our drunk driving defense attorneys.

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