Contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202 to discuss OWI 1st charges

The drunk driving defense attorneys at Van Severen Law Office fight OWI 1st charges.  While our attorneys are certainly prepared to fight any criminal or drunk driving charge, this article focuses on first offense drunk driving charges.

It’s important to note one thing on the front end: unless there are aggravating circumstances, a normal first offense drunk driving charge will not result in a jail sentence in Wisconsin.  It does not matter if you’re in circuit court or if you’re in municipal court.  While circuit court charges will result in a CCAP listing, and charges in municipal court will not, a first offense drunk driving charge is not criminal.  Because the charge is not criminal, you cannot receive a criminal penalty.  In other words, you cannot go to jail.

Our drunk driving defense attorneys believe that hiring someone to represent you remains important, no matter the potential penalty.  Importantly, if you’re ever caught operating a vehicle while intoxicated in the future, you will face a misdemeanor charge and jail penalties.  Successfully fighting your first offense provides a buffer against potential mistakes in the future.  To begin fighting your case, contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202.  Our drunk driving defense lawyers are available 24/7.

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OWI stands for operating while intoxicated.  It’s a drunk driving charge.  Certainly you’ve heard drunk driving charges referred to by other names: DWI, DUI, and OUI.  Any of those words work to describe a drunk driving charge, but in Wisconsin we typically stick to OWI.

A statute explains the difference between drive and operate.  Section 356.63(3) of the Wisconsin Statutes provides:

(a)Drive” means the exercise of physical control over the speed and direction of a motor vehicle while it is in motion.
(b) “Operate” means the physical manipulation or activation of any of the controls of a motor vehicle necessary to put it in motion.
Clearly one of these is an easier-satisfied definition.  Drive requires that the vehicle be in motion.  Operate simply requires the activation of a vehicle.  The turning of a key, and therefore the ignition of the vehicle, is enough to satisfy the word operate.  Prosecutors don’t want to work harder than they have to, and they’ll usually charge cases consistent with that ethic.
100% of the drunk driving cases we’ve defended in Wisconsin were called operating while intoxicated.  There’s no reason to expect that to change.

What are the elements of this offense?  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 2663A

All criminal and drunk driving offenses break down into elements.  Elements are parts of the offense.  Prosecutors must prove each element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be found guilty of that offense.

Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 2663A defines operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.  The elements of this offense are:

  • Firstly, the defendant drove or operated a motor vehicle on the highway; and
  • Secondly, the defendant was under the influence of an intoxicant at the time the defendant drove or operated a motor vehicle.

The instruction moves on and defines “under the influence of an intoxicant” – the defendant’s ability to operate a vehicle was impaired because of consumption of an alcoholic beverage.  The government must prove that the defendant was less able to exercise the clear judgment and steady hand necessary to handle and control a motor vehicle.  Particular acts of unsafe driving aren’t necessary.  Instead, prosecutors must show impairment of the defendant’s ability to safely control the vehicle.

A different jury instruction (specifically Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 2600) discusses the phrase “on the highway.”  Section 340.01(22) of the Wisconsin Statutes defines the word highway.  It includes all public ways, thoroughfares, and bridges on the same.  A highway stretches the width of the road, between both outer boundary lines.

What happens when I have a passenger under 16 years old in the vehicle?

A first offense OWI is no longer simply a ticket when committed while a child under 16 years old is in the vehicle.  Lawmakers recognized that there is additional potential danger when a child is in the vehicle during a drunk driving incident.  Because of that, the penalty for a first offense OWI with a minor under 16 moves from simply a citation to a criminal misdemeanor and includes a mandatory jail sentence.

The penalty for this offense is 5 days – 6 months in jail, a 12-18 month driver license revocation, and a 12-18 month ignition interlock device.  Future drunk driving offenses involving a minor under 16 result in doubled minimum and maximum fines and imprisonment.  While normal OWI penalties escalate quickly, these additional penalties aggravate them even further.

The elements of the offense all operate the same, except for the additional requirement that a child be in the vehicle.

A woman drinks wine before an OWI
Many people aren’t even aware they’re intoxicated at the time they’re arrested for an OWI 1st. We understand. Contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202 for help.

How do we win my OWI 1st case?

There are a few ways to win a drunk driving case.

Let’s assume you actually weren’t under the influence of an intoxicant at the time of the arrest.  If that’s the case, it could make sense in your case to proceed to trial.  At trial, we’d argue your innocence.  Generally, however, the government also issued a prohibited alcohol concentration charge.  This allows the government to prosecute you based on a violation of the .08 alcohol concentration prohibition.  While it might sound easy to argue that you actually exercised “clear judgment and steady hand,” it’s more difficult to challenge a case involving a .08.  That all being said, trial is always an option.

More frequently, we litigate OWI cases with pretrial motions.  For example, police officers need a reason to stop your vehicle.  If they can’t provide reasonable suspicion or probable cause for the stop, generally we can argue against the inclusion of certain evidence.

These answers are general because they have to be: this is a general websites that does not provide legal advice.  Instead, at our firm, we offer free initial consultations to potential clients.  At that consultation you’ll have the opportunity to actually sit down with one of our defense lawyers to discuss your case.  We can get into details and figure out a few potential ways to work through your case.

Van Severen Law Office provides drunk driving defense

At Van Severen Law Office, we’re committed to providing clients the best drunk driving defense in Wisconsin.  That includes filing aggressive pre-trial motions and fighting them through resolution.  It also includes the potential of a court trial or jury trial.  And finally, if you’re looking to resolve your case, it means negotiating the best possible result for you.

If you were recently arrested for drunk driving, you’re certainly feeling stressed out.  No matter the date or time, our defense attorneys are available at (414) 270-0202.  We’re available 24/7.

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