While Wisconsin drunk driving laws may not seem as harsh as other states, this is only a relative judgment. Since the penalties in many other states can be ruinous, Wisconsin may not seem so bad. However, the penalties you face for a drunk driving conviction in this state may still be enough to present you with lifelong challenges in many areas of your life.
A first or second drunk driving conviction may result in fines, community service, alcohol education and license suspension, among other consequences. On the other hand, certain factors at the time of your arrest can elevate the severity of the charges against you, leaving you to deal with the potential for much harsher penalties and even the possibility of a felony count.
What can enhance the charges your face?
If police pull you over under suspicion of driving drunk, they will likely check the blood alcohol content by testing your blood or breath. If your BAC is .08 or higher, police will probably arrest you, and you will begin the complex process of facing criminal charges in court.
In most states, a first offense operating while intoxicated is a misdemeanor, meaning it is a lesser crime with the potential for shorter jail time, if any, if a court convicts you. A felony, on the other hand, may result in years in prison for a conviction and a lifelong blot on your criminal record that can jeopardize your future and derail your goals. The following are factors that can quickly turn a simple OWI into a felony charge with more severe penalties:
- Having an accident that causes the injury or death of someone else and which investigators determine resulted from your impaired state
- Driving while impaired after your license is already suspended
- Driving with a BAC that is considerably higher than the .08 minimum
- Having children in the vehicle you are driving while impaired
Of course, if this is not your first OWI arrest, you may face more serious charges with tougher penalties, such as higher fines and a longer jail sentence. After a certain number of OWI convictions, your next one may result in felony charges.
If you are facing enhanced penalties or felony charges because of other factors in addition to an OWI, you have a lot on the line. You certainly do not want to leave your future to chance. With a skilled attorney, you can learn the most appropriate course of action to reach the best possible outcome for your situation.