An OWI 5th charge carries serious felony penalties. Hire a top drunk driving defense attorney.
If you’re being charged with an OWI 5th, you’ve faced a prison sentence before. An OWI 4th charge is a felony and carries a maximum penalty of 6 years in prison. Unfortunately, your fifth is even more serious. The maximum penalty you face after being convicted of an OWI 5th is 10 years in prison.
Our defense attorneys regularly defend all drunk driving crimes. Your first was a ticket. The second OWI sent you to jail. Your fourth drunk driving resulted in a felony conviction. If you’ve successfully avoided prison in the past, now it’s even more crucial that you hire a top drunk driving defense attorney to defend you. Prior to a change in the penalty scheme for 5th offense OWIs, our law firm successfully kept clients out of prison. The way the law stands now suggests that a presumptive minimum penalty of 1.5 years applies to these cases, but that with appropriate justifications the court can move lower.
Felony OWI convictions result in serious collateral consequences, such as your right to possess a firearm. Even though drunk driving doesn’t have anything to do with firearms, a felony conviction will prohibit you from ever possessing a gun again. Along with the many collateral consequences of a felony conviction, there’s also a negative stigma attached to charges this serious.
Our goal is to help you through this situation the best way we can. To speak with one of our top drunk driving defense attorneys, contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202. We understand that OWI arrests frequently happen at night, and answer calls 24/7.
What is an OWI 5th?
Generally, Wisconsin prosecutors pursue operating while intoxicated charges in connection to drunk driving situations. Operating while intoxicated is abbreviated “OWI.” While this article discusses OWI 5th charges, the same general law applies to DUI 5th charges. Section 356.63(3) of the Wisconsin Statutes defines “drive” and “operate”:
(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.
Felony fifth offense OWI elements:
Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 2663 defines criminal operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant. The elements of this offense are:
- The defendant drove or operated a motor vehicle on the highway; and
- 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 fifth offense drunk driving charge?
If we beat your OWI charge, there’s no penalty. Upon a conviction for fifth offense OWI, these penalties apply:
- Up to 10 years prison
- 1.5 year presumptive minimum in custody
- 1 year mandatory minimum in custody
- 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
Sometimes individuals are confused because of how previous OWI law worked. Previously, if you were convicted of four offenses within five years, the fourth offense was a felony. If your offenses were spread out by more than five years, the fourth offense was still a misdemeanor. Sometimes individuals get this confused when talking about OWI law. To be clear, all 4th and 5th offense drunk driving charges in Wisconsin are felonies.
No mandatory minimum OWI penalty?
Section 346.65(2)(am)5 of the Wisconsin Statutes describes the penalties associated with 5th and 6th offense OWIs. Importantly, the penalties between the two are the same. Some confusion lies in the very last portion of this statute:
The court may impose a term of confinement that is less than one year and 6 months if the court finds that the best interests of the community will be served and the public will not be harmed and if the court places its reasons on the record.
There’s a mandatory minimum penalty that includes 1.5 years initial confinement in prison. But the court can impose a lesser “term of confinement” if the court finds certain communal interests satisfied. So the court can move down to a 1 day jail sentence, correct? Incorrect. The phrase “term of confinement” refers to the in-custody portion of a bifurcated sentence – in other words, initial confinement, or the in-custody portion of a prison sentence. Because a prison sentence is required for an OWI 5th charge, the mandatory minimum is 1 year in custody.