Celebrating the New Year? Be Prepared!

If you’re going out drinking to celebrate the New Year, be aware that officers will be out in full force looking for intoxicated drivers.  According to the Milwaukee Sheriff’s office, the OWI task force in Southeastern Wisconsin plans to triple their usual numbers for the holiday weekend.  Sheriff Schmidt said that the average blood alcohol concentration of people they stop is .15.  The legal limit in Wisconsin is .08.

Avoid an OWI to start the New Year

There are numerous alternative options to get a safe ride home if you do plan to venture out for the New Year.  These include:

  • The Safe Ride voucher from the Tavern League of Wisconsin. To use this, you just need to alert the bartender that you’ve had too much to drink and the bar will call a cab for you.  The Tavern League will cover the first $25 of the ride home.  Notably, this is not just for the New Year.  They offer this service every day of the year.
  • Milwaukee County Transit System is offering free bus rides. This is a partnership with Miller Brewing.  The free rides are offered from 8 pm on New Year’s Eve through 4 am the following day.

Avoid the Stop Altogether

The most important thing is to not drink and drive.  But you also don’t want to give the police a reason to pull you over.  Make sure your lights are on, make sure the occupants of your vehicle are wearing seat belts, don’t blast loud music, and follow traffic signals.  If a road is closed or restricted, don’t drive around barriers.

Another important thing to remember is that most drunk driving cases in Wisconsin are prosecuted as operating while intoxicated.  “Operated” means that you physically manipulated or activated any of the controls necessary to put the vehicle in motion.  However, courts have interpreted this definition very broadly.  You could be prosecuted for simply having the keys in the ignition and the car running.  With the temps in the single digits, you may think it’s OK to sleep in your car with the ignition on.  But officers will investigate and can make an arrest for OWI.

OWI Penalties

If you are pulled over, the penalties you face can range from a fine for a first offense all the way to mandatory prison time for your 7th or greater offenses.  There is mandatory jail time for all offenses beyond your first offense.  For your 2nd offense, it’s a minimum of 5 days jai; for your 3rd, it’s a minimum of 45 days in jail; for your 4th offense, now a felony, it’s a minimum of 60 days jail; for a 5th and 6th offense, a minimum of 6 months in jail.

Arrested? What Should You Do?

If you are arrested for an OWI offense while celebrating the New Year, do not hesitate to call us.  We are experienced in handling OWI cases throughout Wisconsin and we know what to look for.  Remember, the police need a reason to pull you over, and then they need a reason to continue their investigation with field sobriety tests.  Once officers are having you perform field sobriety tests, they must instruct you properly.  All of these aspects of an OWI stop can be challenged in court, and we have experience doing so.  Our attorneys are available every day of the week, even holidays.  Don’t make the mistake of hiring the wrong firm.  Call us today!