Wisconsin places operating while intoxicated (OWI) offenses into three categories: traffic violations, misdemeanors, and felonies. Those who have never been arrested for drunk driving in the past are charged with a traffic violation and sentenced to fines and a license revocation; however, second and subsequent OWI offenses are treated as a criminal matter. If you are currently facing a second, third, or sometimes fourth intoxicated-driving offense, you could be charged with an OWI misdemeanor.
Generally, the biggest difference between a misdemeanor and felony is the incarceration sentence—a misdemeanor is punishable by less than a year in jail, while felony offenders could be sentenced to much more time in a state prison.
Other penalties that may be ordered with a misdemeanor offense include a suspended driver’s license, fines, court costs, an alcohol assessment, and mandatory attendance in an alcohol education program. The court may also order you to mount an ignition interlock device—a small unit that measures your blood alcohol content (BAC) before the car will start—for a period of time.
While it may not be considered a felony offense, transporting a minor under 16 while intoxicated could cause your sentence to be doubled. This means more jail time, a longer license suspension, and heftier fines.
A misdemeanor sentence is not as severe as a felony offense, but that doesn’t mean you should just plead guilty to your charges. With a criminal conviction on your record, you could face discrimination when applying for employment and can also face problems when leaving the country or fighting for custody of your children. If you are not from this county, a misdemeanor conviction can result in deportation. In addition, losing your driving privileges could make your life much more difficult, especially if you live in an area without adequate public transportation.
Many people are hesitant to even fight their charges, believing that the evidence against them is too great—however, this just isn’t the case! Police officers are human, and—as such—are prone to errors. In addition, the machines used to measure BAC have their share of problems. A seasoned OWI attorney can review the facts in your case to determine if they are accurate and challenge the evidence if it’s flawed.
Let Tracey Wood & Associates help with your OWI misdemeanor charge. Complete our online form today to schedule a time for an initial analysis of your charges.