Wisconsin is the only state in the country where your first drunk driving offense is not criminal in nature. The offense is not a misdemeanor or a felony; instead it is treated as a traffic ticket. Since the offense is just a traffic ticket, that means you aren’t looking at any jail time. The laws have cracked down a bit on first offenses by adding harsher penalties if your blood alcohol content (BAC) comes back at .15 or higher. The legal BAC level in Wisconsin is .08.
These harsher penalties have had an effect on the first offender’s decision on hiring an attorney. In the long run, although the penalties are harsher, the fact that they make you take your case more seriously is actually a positive outcome. For example, most people who are charged with their first drunk driving offense and have a BAC under .15 are really just facing a fine and a short license revocation period. This causes that person to normally just pay the fine instead of paying a defense attorney. It is reasonable to look at a fine of $800 and a license revocation of six months and ask “why spend that on a lawyer?” “Why spend the same amount on a lawyer who cannot guarantee that they can get my charge dropped and win my case?” “Why face the possibility of paying a lawyer and the fines?”
Well here is why, most people who are not facing a big penalty for this “traffic violation” decide not to hire a lawyer, even if there may be a potential defense in their case. If they subsequently get a second offense, they are now looking at lengthy jail sentences, a long revocation, an ignition interlock device, and a much larger fine. Now they are in panic mode and go straight to an attorney. The problem is that they may have had a much better case with the circumstances of their first offense, and now since they did not fight it they are facing a second offense where the facts are no longer in their favor.
Don’t get fooled by the small penalty. It is still worth fighting them when you may have a potential defense. Set up a free consultation with an attorney and at least discuss any potential defenses you may have before throwing in the towel. With the newer laws, first offenders with a BAC over .15 are now facing a mandatory ignition interlock device. Although the charge is still not criminal in nature, the harsher consequences have caused first offenders to take their case more seriously.
It is important to understand that no one ever plans to get a drunk driving charge. Please do not be fooled by the” slap on the wrist” consequences when you get a first offense in Wisconsin. Always think how this charge may impact you in the future. Paying the fine and waiting for the revocation period to be over does not mean the offense is off your record. It will be used against you if you ever get another drunk driving charge. Call for a consultation today and understand your potential defenses before deciding whether to plead guilty to your first drunk driving charge.