First-Time Wisconsin OWI Offenders Catch a Break With TAD Program

As you read this, someone somewhere is getting behind the wheel under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Driving while intoxicated is a problem in the United States. That’s why the punishments are swift and harsh if you get caught. You aren’t only endangering yourself, but everyone else on the road and the consequences can be dire. However, many states do understand that sometimes you just make a mistake. You think you’re fine to drive, get behind the wheel, and drive home, only to realizing too late that you are little more under the influence than you thought you were. When you see those blue lights show up in your rearview, you think your life as you know it is over , but there is hope yet.

If you are caught and convicted of drinking and driving in Wisconsin, you may get a second chance.

In the state of Wisconsin non-violent OWI offenders may qualify for their Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) Program if they have no active warrants or pending charges and are a first-time offender. This option is provided to help offenders avoid jail time and work toward getting their Wisconsin OWI conviction dismissed. However, this program is no walk in the park. You must meet every requirement and complete it satisfactorily to receive its benefits.

TAD is a 12-24 month diversion program that is designed for individuals who’ve committed non-violent offenses that had substance abuse as a contributing factor. This program allows for a diversion of the criminal charges while offenders are receiving treatment and services. Requirements of the program can include community service, alcohol awareness and treatment programs, drug and alcohol testing, case management, and the possible use of an ignition interlock device. It also requires a Cognitive Based Thinking Program (CBTP) which has been proven to reduce recidivism.

For Wisconsin OWI offenders, the TAD Program offers them a second chance for a clean record along with education and treatment that will help prevent future offenses. No one wants to be convicted of a Wisconsin OWI, but if the worst happens, know your options to try and mitigate the consequences and remember to never drink and drive again in the future.

ICYMI: Utah Wins 2017 for New Drunk Driving Limit

drunk driving lawAfter the past few years and around a dozen states passing laws requiring more types of drunk driving offenders to install ignition interlocks, we were really excited about what 2017 would bring to the world of drunk driving laws. Safe streets should be a right, not a privilege of those who do not live in so-called “alcohol culture” states. However, it seems that those states that are not soaked in brandy or battered in beer are also not as concerned with creating safer streets.

Florida failed, once again, to expand ignition interlock access for all drunk drivers. While there is a clear problem with drunk drivers in the Sunshine State, there seems to be a bigger problem in the legislature – for the last two years, bills have been introduced to require interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. Each year, those bills have not moved forward, without any reason.

Wisconsin tried to implement some type of new drunk driving laws and succeeded. Only, the state ignored one of the most obvious problems it has (a first time OWI isn’t a criminal offense) and instead has made it easier for convicted drunk drivers to get back on the road, even if they do so illegally. We cannot stress enough how easy it is for a person with a revoked or suspended license to still drive a vehicle, especially if they are impaired. Then you have an unlicensed, uninsured, unsafe and unsober driver on the roads.

Utah may have actually caused the biggest gasp to emit from the mouths of lawmakers, tavern leagues, and happy hour ticket holders. The state reduced the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for a DUI, essentially saying that buzzed driving is now a drunk driving criminal offense. It probably comes as no surprise that the state has a strict ignition interlock policy, as well as other directives on the sales and production of alcohol. It is also one of the safest states in the country.

We hope that 2018 will be a year for more drunk driving law changes. Our safety depends on it, no matter which state we call home.

Upping the Game: New Wisconsin Felony OWI Laws

Wisconsin felony OWIMany states are pushing for harsher convictions for drivers who choose to drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol, especially in the case of repeat offenders. One OWI offense can be seen as a mistake to be learned from, but repeatedly driving under the influence is a pattern of criminal behavior that must be rectified. States are now taking the steps necessary to remove these kinds of drivers from the road permanently. New Wisconsin felony OWI laws are part of that effort.

Lawmakers in Wisconsin took a big step towards safer roads for drivers just last year by adopting a new law that created harsher penalties for repeat OWI offenders. A fourth operating under the influence incident is now a Wisconsin felony OWI, no matter the time frame in which you received the prior OWIs. Previously, a fourth offense was only considered a felony if all OWI instances occurred within five years.

A fourth OWI is now classified as a Class H felony and carries larger fines and longer prison sentences. The penalties for a fourth offense Wisconsin Felony OWI include:

  • Fines between $600 and $10,000
  • Imprisonment for 60 days to 6 years
  • License suspended for 3 years

You also will be responsible for having an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle. This is a requirement for a period of time starting with your first OWI. Due to the OWI  you will be considered high risk when looking for auto insurance, increasing your monthly expenses.

These penalties steadily increase as the number of Wisconsin Felony OWI incidents increase. Always have a trustworthy designated driver or contact that will pick you up if needed. Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence is one of the most irresponsible decisions you can make when transportation from a sober driver is so easily attainable.

Weird DUI: You Got a Wisconsin Snowmobile OWI?

Weird DUI Wisconsin Snowmobile OWIMost laws are the result of a person doing something wrong, something that hurts another person’s body, property, or possibly just their feelings. It may also be obvious that a lot of crimes occur under the influence of alcohol. Those innocent beers with friends quickly lead to dangerous decisions, because inhibitions are lowered or judgment flies out the window. While not violent, the weird DUI law criminalizing a drunken snowmobile ride in Wisconsin are still an indication that wherever there is alcohol and a vehicle, the lives and property of others need to be protected.

Evidently, intoxicated snowmobiling in Wisconsin is a pretty common, but weird DUI (OWI).

The state reports an unusually high amount of OWI incidents that occur on snowmobiles. This won’t surprise those who understand how Wisconsin OWI law works. For an OWI that occurs behind the wheel of a car, truck, or SUV the penalty is sometimes nothing more than a traffic ticket. Most first-offense OWI incidents are not criminalized, especially if nobody got hurt and nothing was damages (this type of OWI is defined as a “simple” drunk driving incident). Because the state does not take a strong stance against drunk driving, residents understandably do not see their intoxicated actions as a big deal.

That weird DUI attitude can also bleed over into other intoxicated crimes, including driving a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol, as well as violent crimes, sexual assaults, and more.

There probably is not one person out there who does not see the connection between alcohol and crime, or at least alcohol and bad decisions. Yet, each day, people still drink and drive, or drink and end up with an ignition interlock requirement, or in jail for those decisions. An OWI on a snowmobile may seem like a typical Wisconsin problem, but it is also an illustration of just how easy it is to make a smart choice before drinking and just not allowing alcohol to impair our own common sense.

3 Ways to Violate Wisconsin Implied Consent Laws

wisconsin implied consentAll 50 states have implied consent laws. These laws are designed to compel drivers to produce blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test results to determine if they are intoxicated. A test reading at or above the legal limit is a guaranteed arrest for OWI in Wisconsin. Even a lower amount can be probable cause to arrest a driver for drunk driving. Another way that police can have probable cause is if a driver refuses a BAC test when asked. that is officially a Wisconsin implied consent violation that carries additional penalties.

You agreed to Wisconsin implied consent laws when you applied for your driver’s license.

There are three opportunities to prove your commitment to those laws:

  • If you are pulled over by police and asked to submit a BAC sample, refusing that test is a violation of implied consent. Instead, you can agree to take the test at that time.
  • If you refuse the preliminary BAC test, you could be arrested based on probable cause. The general consensus is that if a person refuses BAC testing, they may be too intoxicated to make that decision properly. Therefore, an arrest will be made and you will then be asked for your BAC again. If you refuse the test after an arrest, you are in violation of the Wisconsin implied consent laws.
  • If you are in your own vehicle, trying to “sleep it off,” and approached by law enforcement, you will still be asked to provide a BAC sample. You do not even have to be driving, but appear to be in control of your vehicle (you could potentially drive away at any time) for you to be suspected of OWI. The same no refusal policy applies even if you are not driving.

Penalties for violating Wisconsin implied consent laws range from a one-year driver’s license revocation for a first offense to up to three years for a third offense. In some cases, you may qualify for an ignition interlock device. Those restrictions are on top of anything you may receive for the OWI in court or through the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles.

What Could Have Prevented a 7th Wisconsin OWI?

Wisconsin OWI drive thru driverIt happens more times than we can say – a drunk driver is discovered in the drive-thru line at a fast food restaurant. It can even be laughable, a fun story about the man who passed out in line waiting for his burrito supreme. There are already too many problems with Wisconsin OWI drivers, and those across the U.S., to make light of these dangerous drivers. A food stop is more like a cry for help after a long night of drinking, especially when the driver has a history of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

You crave food when drinking because your body has had enough alcohol, not because it helps you get sober.

Food cannot prevent a person from drunk driving. In fact, there is only one thing that could have prevented this man with six prior Wisconsin OWI convictions from repeating his drunken behavior: an ignition interlock device. After being discovered in a parking lot, driving erratically with fast food and alcohol on his breath, the man tested at over twice the legal limit for a Wisconsin OWI. Worse still, he was legally restricted to a .02 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) – but did not have an ignition interlock device on his vehicle. You cannot restrict a person’s alcohol use and have no means of monitoring that level, nor can you expect them to respect that limit if they’ve already racked up multiple convictions.

Currently, Wisconsin law requires ignition interlock devices for high BAC, first-time OWI offenses and for all subsequent incidents. Like many other states, enforcing those policies can be challenging, but well worth the effort. Not only does Wisconsin have a lot of work to do to expand ignition interlock access, the state may also need to work on enforcing current laws and policies so that stories like this aren’t the norm. There is only one way to prevent Wisconsin OWI dangers, and that is with an ignition interlock device.

The Cost of Not Strengthening Wisconsin OWI Law

The cost of a Wisconsin OWIRight now, many first offense Wisconsin OWI convictions result in a mere slap on the wrist: a low-penalty misdemeanor charge that is little more than a traffic citation. The state legislature wants to change that, or most do… but the cost seems to be a driving factor in how to increase penalties for drunk driving in Wisconsin while not forcing additional burdens on the taxpayers of the state.

In 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) estimated that alcohol-related crashes cost the state over $400 million. Increasing penalties for a first-offense Wisconsin OWI will cost the state money, but what will the value of preventing many first-time drunk driving offenses? Priceless.

As the Wisconsin OWI penalties stand today, a first-offense incident without any bodily harm, property damage or fatality will incur the following:

  • Misdemeanor criminal charge.
  • $300 fine.
  • Suspended driver’s license.
  • Driver improvement surcharge ($355).

However, the real cost of any Wisconsin OWI is the risk to lives on the roads. Over 5,000 alcohol-related crashes occurred in 2015, causing almost one death or injury every three hours in Wisconsin. When you consider the devastation from any type of drunk driving incident, there is not really a cost that is too high. When you see the number of people killed each year by drunk drivers, any argument against increasing penalties and expanding ignition interlock access is invalid. Just ask a victim or the surviving family members who have lived through the experience.

By not increasing penalties, we are allowing the problems to continue and grow. Wisconsin lawmakers continue to fight for stricter OWI laws and more access to ignition interlock devices, despite the resistance. As such, we can all step in and lend a hand, and a voice, by encouraging those opposed to stricter laws to reconsider their choice, and supporting those who have already made a stand for safer streets.

The Problem of Not Addressing a First Offense Wisconsin OWI

first offense Wisconsin OWIWisconsin has a big problem with drunk drivers. We read a lot of headlines about people who have three, four or even eight OWI convictions, but little attention is given to the first-offenses in the state. Literally. A traffic citation is given to a first-time OWI offender in Wisconsin, probably sending the wrong message and potentially resulting in those high repeat OWI numbers. In any other state, a first-time drunk driving offense is a criminal violation, and some states even require an ignition interlock requirement for those convictions.

If an ignition interlock requirement for first-time OWI offenders was the penalty in Wisconsin, there would be fewer headlines about an OWI offender with five or more convictions.

It could be the drinking culture of Wisconsin that has a strong resistance to ignition interlock devices and changing the law for first-time OWI offenses. Lawmakers have claimed there is no reason to change the OWI law, and many feel that saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints will be easier and cheaper than changing the OWI laws. Some feel that habitual OWI offenders are the bigger problem, and the focus for drunk driving rehabilitation is treatment programs for alcohol abuse and addiction, not ignition interlock devices. It is that same drinking culture that seems to be completely okay with a first offense OWI triggering little more than a traffic citation.

Drunk driving costs Wisconsin’s taxpayers over a billion dollars each year and the state has the worst drunk driving statistics in the country.  If Wisconsin law treated a first-time OWI as a criminal offense, it could open up the possibility of an ignition interlock requirement for all offenders. There is a lot of work to be done to address the problems that occur after a first offense OWI, with changing the laws and expanding ignition interlock access right at the top of that list.

Wake Up! Wisconsin OWI Dangers are Real

wisconsin owi dangers For two years, Wisconsin has had on its legislative agenda a law to expand the number of OWI offenders who would be required to use ignition interlocks. For two years, these ignition interlock expansion laws have failed. This year both Oklahoma and Nevada have passed such laws, bringing the total number of states that require the car breathalyzer devices for all drunk driving offenders to 30. Understandably, these things take time, but the number of Wisconsin OWI deaths indicates that there may not be much more time to waste. In 2012, a person was killed or injured in an alcohol-related car crash in Wisconsin every 2.8 hours. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, alcohol-related crashes and injuries have declined over the past few decades, but alcohol-related deaths have remained consistent over that same period of time.

Wisconsin OWI numbers, including fatal crashes, haven’t really changed in five years, due to:

  • Wisconsin’s “drinking culture” and the alcohol lobby that supports it doesn’t like the limitations of ignition interlock devices for low blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and “simple” (no injury, no death) OWIs.
  • The rate of binge drinking in Wisconsin is well above the national average.
  • A first-time Wisconsin OWI is a traffic violation, not a crime.
  • Many feel there is a larger financial burden on taxpayers to implement and enforce stricter OWI laws.

37% of all traffic fatalities in Wisconsin cite alcohol as a factor. While Wisconsin certainly continues to fight drunk driving across the state, there are concerns that not enough is being done to stop the damage from a Wisconsin OWI. By passing a law that would expand ignition interlock access across the state, or just criminalizing a first-offense OWI, the state could see a drastic improvement in the number of fatalities, serious injuries, and property damage from drunk drivers in the state.  The real danger in Wisconsin is continuing to turn away from the reality of drunk driving, especially when there are such simple solutions that can increase safety for everyone in the state.

Just Sayin: A Wisconsin IID Could Prevent This…

Wisconsin IID and OWI lawsWisconsin IID (ignition interlock device) and operating while intoxicated (OWI) laws need a lot of work, and if the dangers on the road from drunk drivers aren’t enough, perhaps the audacity of a recent, headline-stirring, prison-bound Wisconsin OWI driver can make the point clear.

Spoiler alert: the man drove himself to prison while intoxicated. Wisconsin IID laws may not be the problem in this situation.

Wisconsin IID access is a hot topic for many reasons. Some feel the devices are unnecessary, while others see the beauty in the safety, accountability, and independence they encourage.  Aside from the Wisconsin IID debate, there is still that small matter of the state treating many drunk driving incidents like they’re not a big deal. That sends quite a message to anyone who may be wondering if they’re too drunk to drive.

If drivers don’t feel there are consequences for being intoxicated behind the wheel, they’re just going to keep driving drunk. For each conviction, a drunk driver has already driven drunk an estimated 80 times previously. In Wisconsin, that conviction could be nothing more than a traffic ticket, a slap on the wrist, or little more than an inconvenience. A Wisconsin IID requirement on top of harsh, criminal consequences, could go a long way in stopping a drunk driver from driving himself to prison… while drunk. Just sayin’.

Wisconsin has every chance to make things better in the state, and while the pressure is on to keep the current practices and penalties in place, there are obvious reasons why all other states in the U.S. have stricter consequences. Wisconsin IID expansion makes sense, but perhaps the state should also focus on ways to make a first-offense OWI something to be feared, allowing those considering an intoxicated drive the chance to reconsider their drive home before they end up with a lot more regret than a traffic ticket.