In a state where taverns tend to dominate the highways and byways alike, where even smoking is still allowed in many bars, and the backwoods are full of hidden what-have-yous, it is still somehow not surprising how strict the drinking and driving laws are in the wonderful dairy haven of Wisconsin.   

The state chooses to label the traditionally known “DUI” or “DWI” instead as “OWI” – which means “operating (a motor vehicle) while intoxicated or impaired.”  It is first important to know our rights as citizens and also to understand the rights of the law enforcement officers on the prowl. 

One, the police officer does not even have to see you driving to “pull” you over.  All he or she needs is to see the keys in the ignition, and intent to drive is proven and enough to convict an alcohol charge.  Also, because you are considered to be under the influence of intoxicants, you are considered an unreliable witness and therefore waive some of your rights before the judge.  Furthermore, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 which is the same legal limit for the first three (ouch!) OWI offenses, but becomes .02 thereafter.  .02 is also the limit for minors under 21.  Here it is also noteworthy to mention that minors accompanied by adults are allowed to consume alcohol in Wisconsin’s drinking establishments – this becomes a tricky situation for bartenders who thereby become responsible if said minor is involved in an alcohol related auto accident.  It is thus the ultimate decision of the bartender whether to serve the minor – regardless of the laws.  I am moreover astounded by the fact that a police officer is allowed by law to physically hold down any person refusing to give a blood or breath sample following an alcohol related traffic stop, in order to force this person to give such a sample.   Even more disturbing, the officer is not even required to read the arrestee his or her Miranda rights!

In the great state of Wisconsin, those convicted of OWI’s are subjected to rigorous punishment both by the criminal courts and the DMV.  These include but are not limited to 6 months to 1 year suspended drivers license, heavy fines (depending on the number of alcohol offenses), community service, jail time (sometimes served as house arrest or work release), alcohol  education and evaluation, and of course, a criminal record.  Furthermore, in some states and including Wisconsin, the interlock device lease program is currently being implemented.  This device is given to those eligible to receive their license back after its suspension due to an alcohol conviction.  Here is how it works: the driver must blow into a machine connected to the vehicle’s motor in order to start the car.  The driver is also required to blow into it at random times throughout the duration of the trip (including 5 minute trips to the grocery store and 14 hour road trips to Colorado!)!

Drinking and driving obviously is never a smart idea.  The possibility of hurting others is alone enough cause to NOT do this.  But considering the ass-whooping the law throws at the millions of us who think “oh its just another beer” or “me? DUI’s or OWI’s happen to other people, but not me” (deep down, we all know that to some extent this is true!) – it is smartest to know the laws, know our rights, and even if the cab is $300, its WAY cheaper than the $14,000 some OWI’s ultimately end up costing.  Be safe.  Ride the bus or stay home.  It is cold up there in the north anyhow – –  



cabs are obviously cheaper: a horrifying example of what NOT to do

cabs are obviously cheaper: a horrifying example of what NOT to do

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