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Do You Need a Lawyer for Your First OWI in Wisconsin?

If you have been arrested for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) for the first time, you may be curious as to just how much trouble you are really in. It’s possible that you know someone (or even multiple people) who have gotten an OWI and seem to have come out on the other side relatively unscathed. As a result, you may be wondering whether you need to retain an attorney to represent you for your first OWI or you can just represent yourself and save the money.

While you may have heard that Wisconsin is the only state in which a 1st time OWI is a civil offense rather than a crime, it’s vital to be aware of the fact that OWI is a serious matter in Wisconsin that is equivalent to DUI or DWI in other states. If you are convicted of drunk or drugged driving, it can have a significant impact on every aspect of your life, long after the sentence imposed by the court has ended. For this reason, if you have been arrested on suspicion of drunk or drugged driving in Wisconsin, it’s absolutely in your best interest to retain a Milwaukee OWI defense lawyer to represent you.

The lawyers of Meyer Van Severen, S.C., are skilled DUI defense lawyers who understand how serious these charges can be and do everything possible to allow our clients to move on with their lives with as few consequences as possible. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an attorney, call our office today at 414-270-0202.

Even a First-Time Drunk Driving Conviction Can Result in Significant Legal Consequences

Over the past few decades, drunk driving enforcement has grown significantly more aggressive, and state legislatures have authorized tougher and tougher penalties on people who get behind the wheel after drinking or doing drugs. As a result, in 2019, even a first OWI offense can result in extremely serious legal penalties, including:

  • Significant fines
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • The installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
  • Mandatory drug and alcohol testing
  • The loss of your driver’s license
  • Substance abuse education

Fortunately, with the assistance of an attorney, many first-time OWI offenders can avoid the most serious of these consequences and continue to live a normal life.

The Collateral Consequences of an OWI Can Affect You for the Rest of Your Life

If you are facing a drunk driving charge in Wisconsin, it’s vital to keep in mind that the sentence imposed by the court is only the beginning of the possible consequences that you will be facing after an OWI conviction. Collateral consequences are those that are imposed by private parties or government agencies as a result of your conviction, and they can arise years or even decades after your court-imposed sentence has come to a close. Some examples of the possible collateral consequences of a Wisconsin DUI conviction include:

  • Difficulty securing employment
  • The loss of a current job
  • Sanctions imposed by your school, including probation, the loss of your financial aid, suspension, or expulsion
  • Denial of admission to the college or university of your choice
  • Problems trying to rent an apartment
  • Damage to your reputation within the community

The only way to avoid these collateral consequences is to avoid a conviction in the first place. As a result, it’s critically important for you to retain an attorney as soon as you can after OWI arrest.

There May Be Defenses Available

Not every OWI arrest results in an OWI conviction. The prosecutor assigned to your case still is required to prove every element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, and there are often defenses that an experienced attorney can raise that may result in the case against you being dropped, dismissed, or an acquittal at trial. Some of these defenses include:

Arguing that the Initial Traffic Stop Was Illegal

In order to perform a traffic stop, the police must have reasonable suspicion that a offense has been or is being committed. Reasonable suspicion must be based on specific facts and not a mere hunch. If the police cannot provide a legitimate reason for having stopped you, any evidence they gathered during the stop could potentially be deemed inadmissible, forcing the state to drop its case against you.

Introducing Alternative Explanations for “Signs of Intoxication”

Police officers in Milwaukee and the rest of the country are trained to look for certain telltale signs of intoxication, including slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, disorientation, and the odor of alcohol. The problem is that many of these signs of intoxication can have other causes, including allergies, fatigue, and diabetic shock. If you have any medical conditions that could cause symptoms that could be mistaken for signs that you are drunk, it may be sufficient to create reasonable doubt about the state’s case against you.

Plea Bargaining in OWI Cases

In some cases, there are no feasible defenses available in an OWI case, and the defendant’s best course of action is to plead guilty in exchange for the prosecutor recommending a more lenient sentence. This process is known as plea bargaining, and the assistance of an attorney can have a significant impact on the deal that you get. An attorney familiar with the plea bargaining process and Wisconsin OWI law specifically can often advise clients to take steps while their case is pending that can influence the court to impose a more lenient sentence. In addition, a lawyer can identify weak points in the prosecution’s case that may make it more likely for a defendant to obtain a favorable recommendation from the prosecutor.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with Milwaukee DUI Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested for drunk or drugged driving in Wisconsin, you should call an attorney as soon as possible. At Meyer Van Severen, S.C., we are dedicated to protecting the rights of people accused of drunk driving and other crimes and work hard to bring each case we handle to the most favorable resolution possible. To schedule a free case evaluation with a drunk driving defense lawyer in Milwaukee, call our office today at 414-270-0202 or send us an email through our online contact form.