OWI 4th charges are felonies.  It’s time to hire a top drunk driving defense attorney.

You’ve had a few drunk driving charges in your past.  Your second and third offense drunk driving charges both resulted in some jail time.  With the arrival of your fourth offense you now face the potential of going to prison.  OWI 4th charges are Class H felonies, meaning the maximum penalty you face upon conviction is 6 years prison.  Felony convictions carry collateral consequences, such as the inability to possess a firearm for the rest of your life.  Additionally, felony charges could result in other serious collateral consequences that will impact your life.  On top of all that, there’s the stigma associated with a felony conviction.

At Van Severen Law Office we believe that individuals facing fourth offense drunk driving charges are in a precarious position.  There’s suddenly a lot more than a simple jail sentence on the line.  And the way to best counteract that is with a top drunk driving defense attorney.  At Van Severen Law Office you’ll meet a few of those.  Our defense attorneys aggressively fight for our clients facing felony drunk driving charges.  We’ve argued virtually every standard pre-trial motion, and constantly look for new ways to defend our clients.  No matter whether you’re represented by one of our partners or one of our associates, you’re in good hands.

Van Severen Law Office is a criminal defense and drunk driving defense law firm.  Some attorneys aren’t competent enough to fight both your criminal charges and your drunk driving charges.  We are.  Whether you’re looking to negotiate for the best result in your case, or fight it all the way to jury trial, we have your back.  Contact us at (414) 270-0202 and let’s start fighting your case.

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What is an OWI 4th?

OWI stands for operating while intoxicated.  This specific article discusses fourth offense OWI charges.  There’s a difference between driving and and operating, defined in section 356.63(3) of the Wisconsin Statutes:

(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.
Local prosecutors usually charge defendants with OWI, rather than DUI.  Considering the definitions we just discussed, the reason for this is likely simple.  An operating charge simply requires the defendant do something like put the keys into the ignition and turn the vehicle on.  A driving charge requires that the vehicle actually be moving.  Certainly one of these definitions also protects the public a little more.
Many individuals get stuck on this.  “If I wasn’t actually driving the car, why should I be charge?”  Fortunately, these situations still serve to mitigate the consequences.  If you were only able to make it into your case before passing out, and that’s how the police found you, at least you didn’t put others in harm’s way.

What are the elements of this offense?

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

  1. The defendant drove or operated a motor vehicle on the highway; and
  2. The defendant was under the influence of an intoxicant at the time the defendant drove or operated a motor vehicle.

“Under the influence of an intoxicant” means the defendant’s ability to operate a vehicle was impaired because of consumption of an alcoholic beverage.  Prosecutors 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.

Elements of the offense are the first place that our defense attorneys begin defending your case.

What penalties do I face for a fourth offense drunk driving charge?

If we beat the case, none.  But if you’re convicted of an OWI 4th charge, you face the following penalties:

  • 60 days jail – 6 years prison
  • 24-36 month driver license revocation (eligible for occupational license after 45 days)
  • 12-36 month ignition interlock device
  • $600+ fine
  • Alcohol assessment and treatment

What if it’s been more than 5 years since my first offense?  This is old law.  Previously, the first question we’d ask would be whether you had four offenses within five years.  This would determine whether the charge was a felony or not.  Unfortunately, the way the law currently works is that all fourth offense drunk driving charges are felonies.

Do I really lose my driver license forever if I’m convicted of a fourth offense OWI?

Over the last decade we’ve seen quick escalation of penalties associated with drunk driving.  The line between a misdemeanor and felony is one place we’ve seen (and discussed) it.  But a 2018 law stiffens things further.  A 4th offense OWI conviction results in a lifetime revocation of the defendant’s driver license.

There are a few exceptions.  If your third offense is more than 15 years ago, this lifetime ban suspension does not apply.  (Importantly, if you ever receive a fifth offense, you’ll lose your license forever.)  But even in the event of a “lifetime” driver license loss, you’re eligible to apply for a reinstatement after 10 years.  The requirements include:

  • All required fines and fees must be paid;
  • A driving examination;
  • No OWIs or OWI-related charges over the last ten years; and
  • An AODA assessment and completion of required programming.
A group of men drink beer before driving home
A fourth-offense OWI is a felony, carrying the possibility of a punishment including prison. Contact our drunk driving defense attorneys immediately at (414) 270-0202 for help.

How do we win my OWI 4th case?

Every criminal case we defend at Van Severen Law Office is different.  Some of those cases involve a large number of pre-trial motions.  Others are simply trial cases, where our goal is to put your allegations in front of a jury to achieve a not-guilty finding.

But we start in the same place for all charges: are there any motions we can file to put your case in a better position moving forward?  For example, drunk driving cases involve you, a vehicle, and law enforcement somehow making contact with that vehicle.  Were you passed out behind the wheel?  Or did the police actually stop your moving vehicle.  If the vehicle was moving, did the cops having probable cause (or reasonable suspicion) to stop you?  If not, we’ve likely found our first motion.

Once they stopped you, what justification did they have to extend the traffic stop beyond the initial purpose?  If they stopped you for speeding, how did the cop move the investigation from speeding to the drunk driving?  Law enforcement can’t hold onto you forever.  There has to be a reason for them to extend the stop to investigate the OWI.

Finally, what kind of trial options do we have?  Did law enforcement come upon your crashed vehicle?  Were you sitting outside of it?  These facts could lead to a trial defense based on an argument you weren’t driving the vehicle.  Certainly the circumstances will be used against you, but there might be a hole here that we can take advantage of.  Another factual argument at trial could deal with whether you were actually intoxicated at the time of driving.

At your initial consultation we’ll begin discussing options for your case.  This article is general, and the things we’ve talked about might not apply to your specific situation.

Van Severen Law Office provides drunk driving defense

Certainly a fourth offense drunk driving charge is serious.  Any felony charge is serious.  And arguably, even your first offense drunk driving ticket was serious.  But a felony conviction can send you to prison for a long time.  At Van Severen Law Office we certainly recognize the obstacles you’re facing.  We’ve worked with clients in your position.

Digging through your case with a fine-toothed comb is crucial to your future success.  If we successfully find some kind of motion to challenge police conduct, there could be the potential to have your case thrown out.  Even if some kind of pre-trial motion doesn’t apply to your case, there’s still hope.  You always maintain your right to a jury trial.  And if you don’t want to proceed to trial, we can engage in plea negotiations with the government for a better result.

Contact one of our drunk driving lawyers today.  We answer phone calls 24/7

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