Experienced Injury Lawyers Serving Wisconsin

Drunk Driving

Wisconsin Drunk Driving Defense Attorneys

Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated in Wisconsin

Drunk driving convictions carry significant, often life-altering penalties. You need a team that takes that responsibility seriously. At Lawton Cates, our skilled team of advocates is prepared to defend you ferociously with a strategy tailored to your unique case. Don't waste another moment!

Call (608) 282-6200 or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation. We are available for same-day and weekend appointments by request.

Representation You Can Trust

In Wisconsin, drunk driving is a crime referred to as “operating a vehicle while intoxicated,” or OWI. While many people only think of driving a car when they think of drunk driving, the law actually prohibits the operation of any motor vehicle, including a boat or snowmobile, while impaired by alcohol. Anyone found guilty of OWI faces certain criminal and administrative penalties, ranging from jail time to thousands of dollars in fines to driver’s license revocation.

If you have been charged with OWI in Wisconsin, or if someone you love was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, it is important that you turn to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help protect your rights. An OWI conviction can not only impact your freedom and your finances, but it can also threaten your employment and cause irreparable damage to your reputation.

At Lawton Cates, we defend clients against all types of OWI charges, including first-, second-, and subsequent arrests. Based in Jefferson and Madison, our drunk driving defense attorneys provide aggressive legal representation on behalf of individuals throughout the state.

Wisconsin Drunk Driving Laws

State law prohibits all individuals from operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. This is known as a “Prohibited Alcohol Concentration,” or PAC, which is considered its own offense and can lead to a secondary citation.

While a BAC of 0.08% or higher is automatically considered grounds for an OWI charge, you can still be arrested for drunk driving if your BAC is lower. Commercial vehicle operators are prohibited from driving with a BAC of 0.04% or higher, and the state’s zero-tolerance law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.02% or higher. Additionally, if you are substantially impaired so as to prohibit the safe operation of a motor vehicle, despite your BAC, you can be arrested for and charged with OWI.

Do You Need a Lawyer for a DUI?

Facing a DUI charge can be a stressful and complex legal matter. Whether or not you need a lawyer for a DUI depends on several factors, including the circumstances of your case, the potential consequences, and your individual preferences.

  • Understanding the Complexity of DUI Laws: DUI laws can be intricate and vary from state to state. Lawyers who are experienced in DUI cases are well-versed in the local laws, regulations, and court procedures. They can help you navigate the legal system, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive fair treatment.
  • Knowledge of Legal Procedures: A skilled DUI attorney can guide you through the legal process. They understand the steps involved, from the initial arrest to court appearances and potential plea negotiations. This expertise can be invaluable in ensuring that your case proceeds smoothly and that you have the best chance of a favorable outcome.
  • Evaluation of Evidence: Lawyers can help evaluate the evidence against you. They can review police reports, witness statements, and other documentation to identify any weaknesses or inconsistencies in the prosecution's case. This critical analysis can be the foundation for your defense strategy.
  • Building a Strong Defense: DUI lawyers are experienced in developing strong defense strategies. They can challenge the validity of field sobriety tests, breathalyzer results, or any other evidence presented against you. They may also explore alternatives, such as plea bargains or diversion programs, to minimize the potential consequences of a DUI conviction.
  • Minimizing Penalties: If you are convicted of a DUI, you could face significant penalties, including fines, license suspension, probation, and even jail time. A lawyer can work to minimize these consequences, potentially negotiating reduced charges or sentencing alternatives like alcohol education programs.
  • Protecting Your Rights: Perhaps one of the most critical roles a DUI attorney plays is safeguarding your constitutional rights. They ensure that law enforcement acted within the bounds of the law during your arrest and subsequent proceedings. If your rights were violated, your lawyer can challenge the evidence against you.

What Are the Penalties for OWI in Wisconsin?

The state of Wisconsin imposes harsh penalties for OWI. The exact penalties you face depend on various factors, including your BAC, your level of alleged impairment, and whether you have been convicted of OWI before.

In general, the penalties for a first-time OWI in Wisconsin include:

  • Fines ranging from $150 to $300
  • Driver’s license revocation for 6 to 9 months
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) installation if BAC over 0.15%

The penalties for a second OWI conviction within a 10-year span include:

  • Fines ranging from $350 to $1,100
  • 5 days to 6 months in jail
  • Driver’s license revocation for 12 to 18 months
  • Mandatory IID installation for 12 to 18 months

The penalties for a third OWI conviction include:

  • Fines ranging from $600 to $2,000
  • 45 days to 1 year in jail
  • Driver’s license revocation for 2 to 3 years
  • Mandatory IID installation for 1 to 3 years

The penalties continue to increase for fourth, fifth, and subsequent OWI convictions.

Do You Have to Submit to a Field Sobriety or Breathalyzer Test?

Wisconsin has what is known as an “implied consent” law. Under this law, you automatically agree to take field sobriety tests, breathalyzer tests, and drug tests if you are pulled over and the officer has a valid reason to suspect you are intoxicated. If you refuse to take an alcohol or drug test under such circumstances, you face certain penalties.

If you refuse to take a breathalyzer or another chemical alcohol or drug test, your driver’s license will automatically be revoked for one year, and you will be required to have an IID installed on your vehicle for one year, as well. If you have been convicted of OWI in the past 10 years and you refuse a test, your driver’s license will be revoked for two years, and you will be required to have an IID installed on your vehicle for a period of one to two years. This increases to a three-year driver’s license revocation and an IID installed on your vehicle for one to three years for a third OWI offense.

Other factors, such as operating a vehicle on a commercial license or having a child in the car, can increase the penalties for refusing a chemical alcohol or drug test. And, depending on the number of offenses, your ability to obtain an occupational license may be extended from 30 to 90 to 120 days.

Defenses to OWI in Wisconsin

Although it can seem hopeless when you have been arrested or charged with OWI, know that you still have rights. There are many defenses to OWI, some of which may apply in your case. At Lawton Cates, our Wisconsin OWI defense attorneys carefully examine the details of the arrest to determine whether the officer violated any laws or whether any mistakes were made in the collection of evidence.

Some common defenses to OWI charges in Wisconsin include:

  • Improper traffic stops
  • Unlawful search and/or seizure
  • Failure to follow field sobriety testing protocols
  • Contaminated blood samples
  • Improperly calibrated BAC instruments, including breathalyzers
  • Laboratory errors
  • Misanalysis of chemical testing
  • Procedural violations
  • Medical conditions affecting the outcome of chemical tests

Every case is unique; our attorneys can discuss your options during a private consultation at absolutely no cost. We encourage you to reach out to us today to learn more.

Put an Experienced Defense Team on Your Side

The state of Wisconsin takes drunk driving very seriously. If you are convicted of OWI, you could face serious damage to your finances, your reputation, and your future. As a trial law firm, we offer personal attention and a high level of service to each and every client. You will be in direct communication with your attorney throughout the duration of your case and will receive the compassionate and aggressive representation you deserve.

Arrested for OWI in Jefferson, Madison, or anywhere in Wisconsin? Call Lawton Cates today at (608) 282-6200 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Client Testimonials

  • "Terry took the time to comfortably explain all and discuss options and decision-making that could be done along the way with clear pros and cons and asking me how I’d like to proceed."
    Jim R.
  • Compassionate, thorough, & made it easy to understand what’s going on.

    Riley G.
  • Lawton & Cates has been the most supportive and helpful!

  • "Everyone was so very kind to me... We were all made to feel welcome, made to feel supported, and made to feel like we belong there. That was very important to me since I was pretty stressed out a lot of the time."
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