What is Operating While Intoxicated? How can I defend against it?

Call Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202 to begin discussing what an OWI charge is and how you can beat it.

One of the most common crimes charged in Wisconsin is OWI, or operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.  OWI charges carry stiff penalties in Wisconsin and judges are required to give minimum jail sentences depending on the defendant’s number of prior convictions.  Hiring a Milwaukee defense attorney who understands OWI defense can be important.  At Van Severen Law Office we focus entirely on drunk driving and criminal defense cases.

Secondly, we offer free consultations to potential clients seeking representation from our firm.  During that consultation you’ll have an opportunity to sit down with one of our attorneys for an hours to discuss your case.  We’ll discuss pre-trial motions, mandatory minimums, and possible trial defenses that could apply in your case.  Contact our firm at (414) 270-0202 immediately to get started.

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What are the potential penalties for an OWI?

-A first offense OWI penalty is generally a fine.
-A second offense OWI penalty ranges from 5 days to 6 months jail.
-A third offense OWI penalty ranges from 45 days to 1 year jail.
-A fourth offense OWI  is a Class H Felony, carrying with it a penalty of 60 days jail to 6 years prison.
-A fifth or sixth offense OWI is a Class G Felony, carrying with it a penalty of 1 year to 10 years prison.
-A seventh, eighth, or ninth OWI is a Class F Felony, carrying with it a penalty of between 3 years and 12.5 years prison.
-Finally, a tenth or subsequent OWI is a Class E Felony, carrying with it a penalty of between 4 and 15 years prison.

These are serious penalties, and lawmakers over the last decade have shown a constant dedication to increasing penalties.  For example, a fourth offense previously was not a felony unless the defendant had a prior drunk driving offense within the last ten years.  More recently, lawmakers increased the mandatory minimum penalty for 5th and 6th drunk driving offenses to 1 year in prison.  There’s no reason to expect lawmakers to slow these escalations, and it’s possible that criminalizing first offense OWIs is within Wisconsin’s future.

What is OWI?

Section 346.63 of the Wisconsin Statutes explains operating/driving while intoxicated.  That statute explains that a person may not drive or operate a motor vehicle while:

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; or


The person has a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in his or her blood.

“Operated” means that the defendant physically manipulated or activated any of the controls necessary to put the vehicle in motion.

“Drive” means the exercise of physical control over the speed and direction of a motor vehicle while it is in motion.

Although most often OWI is charged in Wisconsin, DWI (driving while intoxicated, rather than operating while intoxicated) can be charged.   The difference between the two crimes is indicated in the definitions above.  For the elements “drove” is substituted for “operated.”  In order to provide you competent OWI defense, these important definitions must be understood by your defense attorney.

How can we win my OWI case?

Hiring a criminal defense attorney is the first step in winning your OWI case.  Individuals facing OWI charges often think they can hire any attorney for representation.  While any attorney can show up to court with you and say nice things about you, not all attorneys know the intricacies involved in drunk driving law.  Look up that defense attorney you’re about to hire on a website like avvo.com.  Make sure that drunk driving attorney actually does drunk driving work.   Read client testimonials about that lawyer.  And then decide who you’re going to hire.

Our criminal defense attorneys practice only drunk driving and criminal law.

How we defend your case depends on the facts.  Were you deviating from your designated lane?  Were you speeding?  Are there motion issues?  Are the police lying?  Or are the police exaggerating what’s going on?  All of these are issues that we will need to dig through in preparing your defense.  And that will allow us to figure out how to attack your case.

Call Van Severen Law Office for aggressive drunk driving representation.

Understanding drunk driving law isn’t something you’ll find in all attorneys.  This is even the case for criminal defense attorneys who are used to practicing general criminal law.  Drunk driving law requires extra administrative and procedural knowledge.  Specific penalties, pre-trial motions, and other issues only apply to this specific area of law.  It’s important that your drunk driving defense lawyer understand it all, and we do.

Contact us immediately to begin speaking with one of our drunk driving defense lawyers.  We recognize that these offenses happen around the clock, which is why you’ll reach a human 24/7 at (414) 270-0202.

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