Imagine this: you had a few cocktails at happy hour or while out with some friends. Instead of driving, you decide to do the responsible thing and sleep it off in your vehicle. Sounds like the best choice, right? Unfortunately, what most people would see as the right action to take in this situation could actually result in an alcohol-related arrest. Under Wisconsin law, being in vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit could result in an OWI charge if the police believe any controls were manipulated in the vehicle.
When most people hear the term “operating while intoxicated,” they think of someone driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. However, Wisconsin’s law makes it a crime to even sit in a vehicle with the keys in the ignition. This means that if you are sitting in the driver’s seat and have the keys in the ignition, your hand, or possibly in close proximity, you could be charged with a crime.
It doesn’t end there—in some cases, people have been arrested for sleeping in the back seat while impaired, even when the keys were outside of the vehicle. Unfortunately, depending on the judge or jury, this may be enough for a conviction.
It’s upsetting to think that trying to do the right thing could backfire, resulting in a criminal charge and serious penalties. If you were recently arrested for OWI for merely sitting in your vehicle, please reach out to our firm. Because our practice is focused on OWI defense, we are familiar with the most common defense strategies and have relationships with many of the prosecutors and judges who handle drunk-driving cases. We can use our reputation and knowledge to your advantage when fighting for the best possible resolution to your charges. We have also won numerous cases in both trial courts and the Court of Appeals on this issue.
There are a number of defenses that could be used when challenging your arrest. For example, was the breathalyzer accurate? Did the officer have probable cause to believe a crime was being committed? If the answer to these questions is “no,” there is a chance that you could beat your charges.