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Five Things to Consider Before Operating While Under the Influence

After a night out, you might realize that you may have drank a little too much to drive. If that is so, getting behind the wheel can be dangerous, not only to yourself but to others on the road. Our OWI attorneys at Ahmad & Associates share what you should know about the risks of operating while under the influence.

You Can Be Charged With An OWI For Different Substances

You may feel that you cannot be charged with an OWI unless you drink alcohol, however, individuals in Wisconsin can be charged with an OWI for a variety of mind-altering substances. For a driver to be charged with an OWI, they must be considered an “impaired driver” and meet one of the following qualifications:

  • They are considered legally “drunk” and have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% for individuals over 21 or 0.04% for a commercial driver,
  • They are under the age of 21 but have a blood alcohol content above 0.00%,
  • They are unable to safely operate their vehicle as a result of the consumption of alcohol or drugs, or
  • The amount of drugs in their system is detectable.

In this case, drugs can mean both recreational or medicinal drugs consumed by the driver. Certain medications can affect your ability to safely operate vehicles and have a warning label to inform users of their safety hazards, one of which may include “do not use heavy machinery.” In this case, a car can be considered heavy machinery and if you are actively taking such medication, you should find alternative ways to travel.

You Do Not Need To Be In A Car To Be Charged With An OWI

Drivers can be charged with an OWI if they are operating a vehicle other than a car. In Wisconsin, individuals may be charged with an OWI if they are operating any form of “motor vehicle” that does not need to be propelled by the user, such as using pedals. This includes:

  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • Trailers
  • Tractors
  • Busses
  • Electric scooters
  • All-terrain vehicles
  • Mopeds
  • Motorcycles

As long as these vehicles are motorized and do not have another form of operation, such as pedals on a moped, you can be charged with an OWI. If you are drunk and riding your bike, you will not be charged with an OWI unless it is determined that your bike is motorized.

As a rule of thumb, if you have been drinking and the vehicle you are driving has a motor, then you can be charged with an OWI.

Penalties Can Alter Your Life

If you are convicted of an OWI, the legal penalties are quite severe and can substantially alter your day-to-day life. You may face jail time, financial penalties, and license revocation, as well as additional enhancements if you have minor children in the vehicle, cause great bodily harm to others, refuse a chemical test, or get an OWI with a suspended driver’s license.

Ignition Interlock Devices and Sobriety Programs

If you are a repeat offender or you registered a 0.15% BAC at the time of arrest, you will need to install an interlock ignition device (IID) in your vehicle and any other vehicles titled in your name. You will be required to pay the cost of installation unless it would cause financial hardship or it is determined that your vehicle is unable to have an IID installed.

You can also opt to participate in a 24/7 sobriety program in exchange for the installation of IID, however, the court must approve the sobriety program.

If You Have Children With You, The Consequences Can Be Severe

For parents or those who have minor children under the age of 16 with them in the vehicle when charged with an OWI, the consequences can be quite severe. Wisconsin has an enhancement that adds financial penalties, extra jail time, and increases the time your driver’s license is revoked. The enhancement’s penalties change based on the offense, but they begin with:

  • First Offense: fine ranging from $350 to $1,100, jail time ranging from 5 to 180 days, additional license revocation of 12 to 18 months.
  • Second Offense: fine ranging from $350 to $1,100 if you have not had an OWI in the previous 10 years or $700 to $2,200 if you have been convicted of an OWI in the past 10 years, jail time ranging 5 to 180 days if you have not had an OWI in the past 10 years or 10 days to 12 months, additional license revocation of 12 to 18 months without an OWI in the past 10 years or 2 to 3 years with a past OWI.
  • Third Offense: fine ranging from $1,200 to $4,000, jail time ranging from 90 days to 2 years, additional license revocation of 3 to 4 years.
  • Fourth Offense: fine ranging from $1,200 to $20,000, jail time ranging from 120 days to 12 years, additional license revocation of 3 to 4 years.

For enhancements over the fourth offense, consequences can be even more severe.

To learn more about what happens when you are pulled over for an OWI with minor children in your car, read our blog.

Drunk Driving Can Be Extremely Dangerous

In 2019, there were almost 21,000 drunk driving convictions in Wisconsin, including OWIs. Related to these convictions, there were 140 deaths and 2,918 injured from alcohol-related crashes. When you get behind the wheel drunk, you put multiple lives at risk.

To avoid the potential consequences of driving under the influence, make plans for if you are out drinking or on controlled substances. Consider hailing a rideshare service, such as Uber or Lyft, or schedule when a friend or family member can pick you up and drive you home. If you are able to return home with the help of safe public transportation, try to take a bus from the Milwaukee County Transit System home. The few extra dollars you may spend to arrive home safely are worth not putting yourself and others at risk when driving under the influence.

Milwaukee OWI Attorneys

At Ahmad & Associates, we are passionate about fighting for our clients following OWI charges. We understand that an OWI conviction can be a major disruption to your life and can cost you thousands of dollars and the suspension of your driver’s license, plus time from your family. You deserve an aggressive advocate who can fight your OWI charge and pursue the best possible outcome.

If you were charged with an OWI, call us today at (414) 501-5999 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation with our OWI attorney.