Prohibited Alcohol Concentration (PAC) Explained in Wisconsin

OWI vs PAC: What’s the Difference?

The State of Wisconsin takes drunk driving very seriously; as such it has several laws governing penalties for anyone caught in operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. To the layman, these laws may seem complicated, full of different acronyms and ruled by charges that can “stack,” allowing for someone to receive multiple charges for the same infraction.

Among these charges are a few that are worth exploring. Let’s start with OWI, which refers to Operating While Intoxicated. This is the equivalent to a DUI or a DWI in other states, inferring that those charged with OWI were found to be operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or any intoxicating drug. This is sometimes referred to as the “A Ticket.”

In addition to OWI, those found with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at or above the legal limit of .08 will receive an additional charge (sometimes referred to as a “B Ticket”) of Prohibited Alcohol Concentration (PAC). As a separate charge, OWI focuses solely on the BAC, regardless of whether the driver showed signs of impairment. Essentially, you can be able to drive safely, but still be charged if the alcohol concentration in your blood is high enough.

A Closer Look at PAC

Question: Can you explain the difference between prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC) and the operating while impaired (OWI) charge in Wisconsin? Why are there 2 tickets?

Answer: In Wisconsin, assuming that there’s a test result of .08 or higher of a restricted controlled substance in the blood, there will oftentimes be two charges given. The first is operating under the influence of an intoxicant, and the other is operating with a prohibited concentration or with a restricted substance. There are two tickets given because the State can actually proceed on both of them. The first charge requires that they simply show that someone is too impaired to safely operate a motor vehicle. The second charge is to show at what level they’re at or whether or not there is a restricted substance in the blood.

If you are charged with both OWI and PAC in Wisconsin, the prosecution will generally concentrate on convicting you on one of the charges – as opposed to both – based on the strength of the evidence, the specifics of the case and the tactics the prosecution chooses.

Is a PAC charge Considered a Felony?

Generally, no. In Wisconsin, PAC is usually considered a traffic violation or a misdemeanor. That said, several factors ranging from prior convictions to the amount of alcohol in your system demonstrated by your BAC can impact the seriousness of the offense. It’s also worth noting that the BAC threshold for a PAC charge is .08 for those 21 years of age or older, but for those under 21 it is zero.

What are the Potential Penalties for PAC?

As mentioned earlier, the specifics of the individual case can impact the severity of the consequences you can expect. One of the biggest factors is prior offenses. If this is your first charge of PAC, you can expect fewer consequences than if you have multiple PAC charges on your record. While individual circumstances may vary, you can generally expect the following:

First Offense

Jail Time: None, unless outside factors warrant it such as causing an accident, causing injury, or transporting a minor under the age of 16.

Fines: Mandatory fines of nearly $1,000, plus a surcharge of $365.

License Suspension: Suspension period of 6-9 months, and mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for a year.

Other consequences: Potential community service, probation period, and compulsory attendance of an Intoxicated Driver Program with risk evaluations and possible further treatments.

Second Offense

Jail Time: Anywhere from five days to six months in jail, or the possibility of 30 days of community service.

Fines: Mandatory fines ranging from $350-$1,100 plus court costs.

License Suspension: Suspension period of 12-18 months, as well as mandatory IID use for a year.

Other Consequences: Probation period set by the court, as well as possible mandatory attendance of an Intoxicated Driver Program with risk evaluations and possible further treatments.

Third Offense

Jail Time: At a minimum, 45 days in jail with possible sentencing up to 12 months.

Fines: Mandatory fines from $600-$2,000, plus court fees and a driver improvement surcharge of no less than $435.

License Suspension: Possible revocation of your license ranging anywhere from 2-3 years. Enrollment in a sobriety program or installation of an IID for 2-3 years may be required to regain driving privileges.

Other Consequences: Community service, probation and other sanctions may be leveled by the court depending on the specifics of your case.

Fourth Offense

Jail Time: Jail time ranging from 60 days to six years.

Fines: Mandatory fines ranging anywhere from $600-$10,000 along with court fees.

License Suspension: Permanent revocation of driver’s license, leaving you legally unable to operate a motor vehicle for life in the state of Wisconsin.

Other Consequences: Potential community service, probation and mandatory treatment for alcohol issues. In addition, for a fourth or subsequent PAC charge, the threshold for BAC drops from .08% to .02%.

Fifth Offense

Jail Time: Jail time ranging from six months to 10 years.

Fines: Mandatory fines from $600-$25,000 along with court fees.

License Suspension: Permanent revocation of driver’s license, leaving you legally unable to operate a motor vehicle for life in the state of Wisconsin.

Other Consequences: Potential community service, probation and mandatory treatment for alcohol issues.

What are Some Defenses Against a PAC Charge?

A PAC charge may seem like an open-and-shut case, and the prosecution will certainly try to present it that way. However, there are many ways to raise reasonable doubt regarding the evidence against you.

For example, you can challenge the results of the breath test. The machines used by law enforcement to measure your BAC during a traffic stop, such as the commonly used Intoximeter EC/IR II are well known for having issues. And even blood tests, while more medically accurate can encounter issues with procedural errors.

Challenging Breath Test Results: There are several questions that can be raised when it comes to breathalyzer tests, questions which can cast a reasonable doubt on their results. The machine itself may not be properly calibrated or maintained according to regulations, or the test may have been administrated incorrectly. Additionally, the officer who administered the test may lack the proper qualifications and training or may have failed to follow the procedure correctly. Other members of law enforcement may have mishandled the sample itself in testing it. Additionally, certain medical conditions, including diabetes, acid reflux or ketosis can impact the results.

Challenging Blood Test Results: There is a rigorous set of regulations regarding the handling and storage of blood samples, and a failure to strictly adhere to these rules could offer a potential defense. If there are issues with the chain of custody, it could suggest that there was a contamination of the sample or even deliberate tampering. Failure to use the correct preservatives could taint the results. Every person in that chain, from the technician who collected that sample to the personnel who analyzed it, must have the proper qualifications and credentials. If not, the results could potentially be challenged. And much like in challenging breath test results, numerous medical conditions could affect the BAC readings.

Achieving Excellence Through Preparation: Empowering Your Legal Victory

In the pursuit of success in legal matters, thorough preparation becomes the cornerstone of the best possible outcome.  This can come in the form of a case being dismissed or reduced. Whether you are facing an impaired driving charge or any other legal challenge, the key to winning lies in possessing an in-depth understanding of the case.

Here at Tracey Wood & Associates, we embrace the responsibility of delving deep into your case. By the time we step into the courtroom, our knowledge will surpass that of the prosecutor and the arresting officers. Identifying potential weaknesses in your case is our expertise, and we will leverage them to the fullest extent, working tirelessly to restore your freedom and dignity.

Schedule a No Obligation Case Evaluation

Take back control of your life and legal matters by booking a confidential consultation with Tracey Wood & Associates. Together, we will chart a strategic course to navigate the complexities of your case and secure the best possible results for you.

Call (608) 490-5779 or Schedule a Free Case Evaluation Online

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