Do I need a lawyer for my criminal or drunk driving case?

You should always consult with an attorney before any court appearance and prior to speaking with a police officer. The role of the attorney is to assist you with the legal process and to protect your rights. Just as doctors do not perform surgery on themselves, people acting as their own lawyer risk irreparable harm. It is much easier to prevent additional problems than trying to fix mistakes.


What will happen if I am convicted of a first offense drunk driving?

In Wisconsin, the penalty depends on the offense. For first offense there will be a fine, a license revocation, an order for an alcohol assessment, and six points on your driving record. You will probably be eligible for an occupational license.If your BAC is equal to or greater than .15 at the time of driving, the court will impose an order requiring that you equip all of your vehicle’s with ignition interlock which requires you to blow into a device in order to operate your vehicle.

Any OWI conviction will carry with it the collateral concerns of vastly increased insurance premiums. Many of the major insurance companies may simply drop you. In addition, one should take the first offense very seriously as a second offense carries with it mandatory jail.

What will happen if I am convicted of a second, third or fourth offense drunk driving?

There will be a fine, a license revocation, an order for an alcohol assessment, and six points on your driving record. You may be eligible for an occupational license after a waiting period, there is also mandatory jail. The jail sentence ranges from five days on up, depending upon the blood alcohol concentration and what offense it is. The jail also generally is with work release privilege. Currently, on a fifth or greater offense (a felony) the accused faces a probable prison term, if convicted. Fourth offenses are felonies if the defendant’s prior offense was within five years. There is also a push to make a first offense a criminal offense in Wisconsin.

What is an occupational license and am I eligible?

An occupational license is a restricted driver license. Unlike a regular license, an occupational license limits when and where you can drive. You may only drive to and from work or church or other places indicated on the license and during specific times of the day. You may not use an occupational license for recreational purposes. Your total driving time is limited to 12 hours each day and no more than 60 hours for the entire week. If you operate outside those specific hours or for a purpose not permitted on the license, you may be arrested for operating after suspension or revocation.For complete eligibility information please follow this link:

How long does a drunk driving conviction stay on my record?

In Wisconsin, drunk driving convictions stay on your record for life. The Department of Transportation no longer “purges” the records of conviction.

How much time do I have to get a lawyer?

Call a lawyer competent in this area of law immediately. Do not call a general practitioner who practices in other areas and may not have the expertise to properly address the issues you face. Do not wait until the court date, it may be too late. If you refused or it is alleged that you refused to take a breath, blood, or urine sample then you must request a hearing within ten days. If you do not, you will lose your license. If you took the test and it was over the limit and you do not request the administrative suspension hearing then you will lose your license. Either way, if you wait it may be too late. If possible, it is preferable for you to retain counsel prior to your bail hearing. Your lawyer will want to preserve your jurisdictional objections and determine whether or not to substitute on the assigned judge, actions you will probably not take on your own. In addition, your attorney will be skilled in making a convincing bail argument for your release on a signature bond or on cash bond you can raise so you don’t spend your time awaiting the resolution of your case in jail.

What are the notices that I received?

You may have received from the police a “Notice of Intent to Suspend,” if you submitted to a police breath, blood, or urine test, or a “Notice of Intent to Revoke,” if you refused or if the officers allege that you refused to provide the sample. These act as your temporary license but they also provide important information including deadlines. If you miss the deadlines, then you will lose some of your rights.

Why should I plead “not guilty” if I am guilty?

A not guilty plea is the best way to protect your rights and your driving privilege. It gives your attorney the opportunity to review the reports and make sure that everything was proper and then if necessary negotiate a satisfactory resolution If you just plead guilty then you are at the mercy of the prosecutor and the judge.

How does failing the tests affect my case?

Just because you failed the breath, blood or field tests does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted. The role of the attorney is to evaluate all of the information and determine if there is a way to suppress or keep that information from the court and or the jury. If that evidence is kept out, you will be in a much better position in trying to resolve or dismiss the charges. The police must follow specific procedures and they cannot violate your rights to get evidence to convict you. “Failed” field sobriety tests can often be favorably characterized by an attorney skilled in this field. Remember, the officer is looking for signs that you were intoxicated, not signs that you were sober. Usually, from the time you exit your vehicle the officer has made up his mind.

Should I have taken the blood or breath test?

Wisconsin’s implied consent law holds that by driving on our roads you have impliedly consented to a test of your breath, blood or urine if an officer with probable cause asks for one. When asked, I generally advise clients making the decision to take the test as on first offenses there are considerable penalties for refusing and on repeat offenses the officers are entitled to take a blood sample by force, if necessary. At this point it does not matter. If you provide a sample then that evidence may be used against you and may result in an administrative suspension. If you refuse, your license may be revoked for at least a year. At this point, the focus of your case is to work with the facts that we have and exploit the available defenses.

What is a PBT, or the breath test, I took at the scene?

That is a portable or preliminary breath test. Under Wisconsin law this test result may not be used against you at the trial, however it may be used before trial for limited purposes such as for the purpose of determining if there was probable cause for your arrest.

What are the field sobriety tests?

Field Sobriety Tests are subjective tools used by the police to justify them arresting you. The standardized field sobriety tests are outlined in a manual put out by the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA. Generally, the officer will have the individual attempt the Horizontal Gaze Nystagamus test, the ABC test, the Walk & Turn, the One Leg Stand often followed by the PBT or preliminary breath test. Each has a variety of “clues” the officer looks for in determining whether to arrest an individual.

How does this impact my CDL?

A drunk driving conviction may be devastating to the livelihood of a CDL holder. Federal Law has eliminated the occupational CDL rendering the commercial driver without any way to do his or her job. An OWI conviction will always result in suspension or revocation of the commercial driver’s license, or “CDL”.

How does this affect me if I have an Illinois Driver’s License?

Illinois treats an out-of-state Wisconsin conviction as though it were an in-state Illinois conviction. Even though the Wisconsin case resulted from the first DUI arrest, it is treated the same as a second or third arrest in Illinois. The Illinois authorities will issue an indefinite revocation order of one year to life, with limited and discretionary eligibility for an RDP (restricted driver’s permit). If convicted, an Illinois driver will need to retain Illinois counsel to attempt to secure an RDP in Illinois. In addition, these consequences may put the Illinois driver in the position of wanting to take his or her case to trial. If this is the case, you will need an attorney who practices in this area regularly.

Why did I get two tickets?

You received one ticket for drunk driving (OWI/DUI): “operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.” The second ticket was for having a “prohibited alcohol concentration” (PAC), which means that you got a ticket for testing above the legal limit. You may be convicted of either or both of these offense but only receive penalties as to one.


What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail, a felony is punishable by a term in the Wisconsin State Prison system. A felony also results in the loss of many rights, including the right to possess a firearm. Be advised that the conviction for a “domestic violence” offense may also prohibit your ability to posses a firearm.

What is the Huber Dorm?

That is jail with work release privileges, meaning that you are released to go to work, school or childcare.

What is a preliminary hearing and should I waive it?

This is a hearing before a judge or a court commissioner to determine if a felony was probably committed and that the accused probably committed it. The standard for the prosecutor to meet is very low, so generally the defense loses these hearings. Deciding to have the hearing or waive it is done on a case by case basis as there are advantages and disadvantages that must be looked at thoroughly.

Will I go to jail?

This depends on too many factors to elaborate on here, but a better analysis can be given at a consultation at my office.

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