There's no shortage of statistics and facts to be found on college drinking in Wisconsin and elsewhere. And the numbers are alarming. National Survey Data by AlcoholEdu states that half the students who drink alcohol actually spend more time drinking than they do studying. "Forty percent of all academic problems are related to drinking" says the National College Alcohol Survey. And driving while impaired by alcohol kills more Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 than anything else. Drunk driving among Wisconsin college students is clearly a problem.
Driving Drunk and the Law
Drinking and driving is dangerous. That's a given. There is the potential property damage. You can hurt yourself and others. Death is also a possibility. However, even when a foray onto the road after drinking doesn't lead to a collision, injury or death, there are still other very real consequences. If you are stopped by law enforcement for driving drunk, the ensuing charges may change your future significantly.
Wisconsin has an implied consent law. So, if a police officer pulls you over, you are legally compelled to cooperate with a request to test your blood alcohol content. Wisconsin also follows a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. As a college student, it's pretty likely that you are not yet 21, unless you are in your fourth year. Hopefully, by then, you've successfully managed to avoid driving under the influence. But if you are still under 21, then any BAC reading above zero is legal grounds for an underage OWI charge.
If other minors are present and have been drinking as well, you face the possibility of additional charges:
- Minor in possession
- Distributing alcohol to other minors
- Soliciting alcohol
Depending upon whether you have prior convictions and the ages of others in the car, possible penalties include the following:
- Extensive fines and fees
- License suspension
- Mandatory installation of an interlock device
- Jail time
Life After an OWI Charge
The legal penalties for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) are not the only consequences you face. The financial impact is a fairly large one. You pay out for fines, fees, surcharges, alcohol classes and more. Your insurance premiums will go up. That's if your carrier doesn't drop you entirely. The stress and emotional toll is likely to affect your schooling and studies. A conviction on your record can potentially bar you from future employment with some companies. Essentially, the damage is often severe and long-lasting. Obviously, the best option is to never drink and drive. However, if you do find yourself facing a drunk driving charge, contact an attorney immediately. The sooner the better. An experienced Wisconsin OWI lawyer will guide you through the judicial system and provide a vigorous defense to help minimize the potential fall-out.
Sources: http://www.uwc.edu/aode/alcohol/facts, http://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/safety/education/drunk-drv/default.aspx, http://wisconsindot.gov/Documents/safety/education/drunk-drv/owi-penchrt.pdf