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Waukesha Criminal Defense Law Blog

What are the penalties for drunk driving in Wisconsin?

Drivers who are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in Wisconsin should understand the state’s laws and associated penalties if convicted. Being armed with the right information can help people in the face of challenging times to navigate the often confusing world of lodging a successful defense against OWI, DWI or DUI charges.

The most serious charge possible for an impaired driving offense is a felony conviction. This is reserved for two situations—a fourth DUI conviction with the third one being less than five years prior to the current charge or a fifth DUI conviction during a lifetime. Persons convicted of felony DUI offenses can face up to three years in jail and drivers’ license revocations that last as long as three years. There may be some ability to receive what are called occupational licenses, which allow people to operate vehicles when driving to or from either work or school. Use of ignition interlock devices would typically accompany these licenses. Fines can reach $10,000 for felony DUI convictions.

Wisconsin sex offender registry program basics

People in Wisconsin who face sex crime allegations such as rape or other sexual assault charges should understand some of the basic information about the state’s laws. This includes an overview on the state’s sex offender registry program. Managed by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, the program requires the some, but not all, people convicted of sex crimes in Wisconsin to have their personal data collected and monitored by the state and communicated to various law enforcement organizations, neighborhood groups and more.

Defendants who meet certain requirements, based on age or the nature of offenses for which they were convicted, must participate in the sex offender registry program upon commencing parole, probation or other supervised time per the order of a court. The Wisconsin Division of Community Corrections manages this with the goal of decreasing the risk of any future offenses being committed. 

Understanding Wisconsin’s sex crime laws

People accused of sex crimes in Wisconsin can be subject to severe and long-lasting consequences if convicted on such charges. For this reason, having an understanding of the basic laws governing these forms of criminal charges and their associated penalties can be important.

The Wisconsin state legislature website outlines the basics of four types of sexual assault charges, how they each differ and what the jail or financial sentences may be for each. Details include:

Field sobriety tests may be unreliable

Being convicted of an OWI in Wisconsin can be accompanied by serious penalties including costly fines, revocation of your driver’s license and even jail time, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. When a person is stopped by authorities who suspect him or her of drinking and driving, a field sobriety test may be performed. These tests are done to establish probable cause for an arrest. However, here at Craig Kuhary, Attorney at Law, we know that due to the subjective nature of a field sobriety test, it can be successfully challenged in the courtroom.

People who struggle with poor balance, inner ear problems or other health problems may have trouble passing field sobriety tests even when they have had nothing to drink.  Law enforcement officers are trained to use their own judgment and this can lead to mistakes in determining a person’s sobriety level.  This was evident in a study where a group of officers were tested by watching a film of people taking filed sobriety tests.  After watching the film, it was determined that the people on film were under the influence of alcohol, according to 46 percent of the officers.  However, the truth was that every person filmed was completely sober.

Questioning the validity of breath analyzer tests

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, over 26 percent of adults living in Wisconsin admitted in a survey that they had operated a vehicle while they were drunk in the last year. Wisconsin leads the nation in drunk driving with over 33,000 convictions in 2012.

A number of these convictions may have been aided by the use of a breath analyzer, a device that measures blood alcohol concentrations. However, according to a State University of New York professor, breath analyzers may yield unreliable results and lead to innocent people being charged with DUI. In fact, research has indicated that the blood alcohol concentration readings from breath analyzers differ from the actual concentration by at least 15 percent. This discrepancy can lead to people who are not legally drunk being arrested and charged with DUI. 

A Wisconsin university under investigation after strange party

Many fraternities are known for their wild drinking parties and taking things to the extreme. However, Wisconsin college students should understand that illegal actions, including underage drinking, drugs and sexual assault, may lead to severe consequences that could affect their lives for a significant period of time.

The Sanburg Residence Hall is home to Tau Kappa Epsilon, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee fraternity. Last year, law enforcement officers investigated the fraternity for three alleged sexual assault incidents, none of which led to charges or an arrest. The fraternity is currently under investigation again due to excessive underage drinking, and reports of the date rape drug being added to party-goers alcoholic beverages. 

University students may face suspension for drug crimes on campus

Although one’s college years may seem the perfect time for experimenting with drugs, many young people are unaware that their seemingly harmless actions may affect the rest of their lives. If caught using or distributing drugs on campus, Wisconsin students may face criminal charges and penalties as well as severe repercussions from university administration.

While each university has the ability to set their own campus policy in regards to drug use, many universities have similar penalties. At University of Wisconsin, students who are found selling drugs on campus grounds may be suspended for up to two years, depending on the specific details of the case. In some situations, students may be able to decrease their suspension period by agreeing to participate in drug counseling.

Are all DUI offenders required to use ignition interlock devices?

Not all convicted DUI offenders are required to use ignition interlock devices in the state of Wisconsin. However, a revised law that took effect in July 2010 strengthened the operating while intoxicated laws, and increased the mandatory usage of interlock devices.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, ignition interlock devices are mandated with the following DUI offenses:

  • First offense: An IID must be used for a minimum of 12 months if the driver’s blood alcohol content level is 0.15 percent or higher. An IID may also be ordered if the driver refuses to submit to a breath or field sobriety test.
  • Second offense: An IID is mandated for a period of 12 to 18 months.
  • Third, fourth and fifth offenses: An IID is mandated for a minimum period of 12 months and a maximum period of three years.

Previously, all court-ordered IID restriction periods started from the time the judge made their ruling. They now begin after an offender obtains an operator’s license from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

How can a juvenile offender have their criminal records sealed?

In the state of Wisconsin, juvenile offenders who meet certain criteria may be eligible to have their criminal case sealed, or expunged from their record. This means that the courts seal all electronic and paper documentation pertaining to your criminal case. Once your case is sealed, you are no longer required to report it on employment, university or housing applications.

In order to be eligible for an expungement, you must be at least 17 years old and have successfully complied with the specific conditions of your dispositional order, according to Wisconsin legislation. If you were younger than 25 years old when the incident occurred, and received a sentence of 6 years or less, your case may qualify for expungement. Once your sentence is completed, you will be able to file with the courts for record sealing. The court will then determine if society will be harmed by granting your expungement and whether or not sealing your records will benefit your situation.

Former football player caught in domestic violence uproar

Prominent sports figures in America should be aware that their actions are under constant scrutiny, ultimately reflecting on their reputation and their ability to withstand super stardom. Wisconsin residents, as well as the general public are often quick to overlook the fact that sports stars are also people who have issues and may make mistakes. One bad decision can lead to severe consequences, even for people in the spotlight.

A former Baltimore Ravens running back lost his position on the NFL team due to an incident where he was filmed battering his fiancée at the time, now wife. A hotel elevator camera caught footage of the assault, which has since been released to the public. Although the football player was initially suspended for two games, the NFL Commissioner later changed the institution’s domestic violence policies. First time domestic violence offenders now face a six game suspension, while second offenders may be banned from the game for life.

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