Most people know that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime, but many don’t realize that driving while intoxicated with a minor in the vehicle is a separate offense with different—and more serious—punishments.
Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, or OMVWI, can result in severe consequences. However, once a minor is involved, the charge changes drastically. At the most basic level, driving while intoxicated with a minor under the age of 16 in the vehicle will result in enhanced penalties on any OWI conviction in Wisconsin.
A first-offense OWI in Wisconsin is normally a civil offense, like a traffic ticket, and does not result in jail time. But a first-offense OWI with a minor passenger becomes a criminal charge, carrying a minimum of five days and a maximum of six months in jail, in addition to heavy fines and license revocation.
For second-offense OWIs or more, Wisconsin simply doubles the applicable maximum and minimum penalties if those offenses are committed with a minor passenger in the vehicle. If this is your third offense, which would normally be a misdemeanor, your charge could be upgraded to a felony.
In some cases, it is possible to be charged with a more serious crime. If a prosecutor believes that the driver’s conduct created an “unreasonable and substantial risk of death or great bodily harm” to the child, he or she could issue charges of reckless endangerment. These charges are felonies, carrying a maximum of 10 to 12 and-a- half years in prison, depending on the degree.
At Tracey Wood & Associates, we understand the legal process can be stressful, and potential penalties for this type of conviction are frightening. However, there is hope. We have successfully defended numerous cases for clients across Wisconsin and we can fight for you. To learn about your options, contact us today.