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Hayes & Rothstein

OWI and Car Accidents in Wisconsin

Offering sound legal guidance for unfortunate circumstances

The fact that your vehicle was involved in an accident does not necessarily increase the penalty upon conviction for operating under the influence. Striking a vehicle, whether occupied or unoccupied, may be considered as an aggravating factor determining placement within the range of penalties upon conviction but an accident will not result in an enhanced charge — unless the intoxicated operation of your vehicle results in injury or death.

What are the penalties for causing injury by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle?

If there are no offenses included as prior convictions under Sec. 343.307(1), a conviction for causing injury while under the influence of an intoxicant under Sec. 346.63(2)a does not automatically result in a jail sentence. If the court does impose a jail sentence, it must impose a minimum of 30 days up to a maximum of one year. The court must also order a fine of $300-$2,000 plus costs, a one- to two-year revocation of operating privileges, and the ignition interlock device for one to two years. Eligibility for an occupational license is 60 days after conviction or one year if there are two or more OWI offenses within a five-year period. There is no credit for the administrative suspension.

If the injury constitutes great bodily harm, there will be a conviction for a Class F felony under Sec. 940.09(1) with a sentence up to 12.5 years in the Wisconsin state prison system, including up to seven and a half years initial confinement; two-year revocation of operating privileges, a fine up to $25,000 plus costs, and a one- to two-year ignition interlock device period. Eligibility for an occupational license is 120 days after conviction or one year if there are two or more OWI offenses with a five-year period. There is no credit for the administrative suspension.

Sec. 939.22(14) sets forth the definition of great bodily harm as “bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily injury.”

Injury by intoxicated use with prior conviction more than 10 years before current violation

There is an issue regarding the applicability of the general rule requiring a violation within 10 years for a current offense to be charged as a second offense OWI. There is no clear appellate decision as to whether the 10-year counting period is applicable to misdemeanor injury by intoxicated use.

If there is a prior OWI conviction under Sec. 343.307(1) within 10 years of the OWI involving injury, the new charge is clearly a Class H felony (Sec. 346.65(3p)).  There remains the issue of whether the case should be charged as a felony if the first offense had a violation date more than 10 years prior to the current violation date.

What if the person I hit dies after the accident?

When an auto accident results in the death of another person, this is a profound tragedy requiring representation by knowledgeable and experienced counsel such as the legal team at Hayes & Rothstein, S.C.. There may be issues regarding the admissibility of evidence and whether the prosecution can establish that at the time of the violation your ability to operate was impaired or whether you had a blood alcohol concentration in excess of the limit.

There is also the possibility that the defense may be able to prove by evidence that satisfies a jury to a reasonable degree of certainty by the greater weight of credible evidence that the accident and death would have occurred even if you had been exercising due care and had not been under the influence of an intoxicant.

If convicted the penalty range afforded the sentencing judge ranges from no incarceration up to 25 years in prison.

Call an OWI and car accident attorney in Milwaukee today for a free consultation

There are many equities than can affect the final sentence. If you are involved in this unfortunate situation it is important to immediately contact an attorney to review all aspects of your case. Call us at 414.291.9911 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation.

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