When you saw lights flashing on the patrol car behind you as you drove along a Wisconsin highway, you may have immediately felt stressed and nervous. Traffic stops have a way of doing that to people. When you pulled over and a police officer approached you, you may have wondered what the reason was for the stop. If the officer in question asked you to step out of your vehicle, there’s a good chance that he or she suspected you of drunk driving.
In many states, the law refers to operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol with acronyms, such as DUI, DWI or OWI, which stands for Operating While Intoxicated. No matter what it’s called, it’s an experience most drivers would like to live without. If police took you into custody on suspicion of DUI, there are several issues to be aware of as your case is adjudicated.
You will be “booked” at a county jail or police department
Upon arrest, the patrol officer will transport you to the local police department or county jail for processing, otherwise known as “booking.” They’ll take your picture and your fingerprints. If you’ve never faced arrest prior to that moment, you might feel highly stressed and uncomfortable or even embarrassed or frightened.
Such an experience can have an adverse effect on your emotional and mental health. Also, even if the court dismisses your case or finds you not guilty, from the time of your arrest until that point, things might get worse before they get better.
Wisconsin DUI laws are unique
Each state has its own laws regarding operation of a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Wisconsin is unlike most other states in that a first offense for DUI is a civil traffic violation. In most states, the same offense falls under the criminal violation category. Even if it’s your first offense in this state, however, it permanently remains on your driving record.
Another unique aspect of Wisconsin law pertains to automatic revocation of a driver’s license in DUI cases. In certain circumstances, you might be able to obtain a restricted license, called an “occupational license,” that allows you to drive to and from work during certain hours.
Appearing in court can be an unsettling experience
The court will notify you as to a date, time and specific location for a court appearance. A courtroom is a public place, so there might be a crowd of strangers present when you stand before a judge and enter a plea regarding the DUI charge against you. If your family is there with you, it may intensify your feelings of anxiety or embarrassment.
What happens next depends on numerous factors
There’s no way to predict a specific outcome in a DUI case. Much depends on the type of defense strategy you present in court. This is one of many reasons it’s always best to make sure you clearly understand state laws and know your rights and how to protect them.
Facing drunk driving charges, even on a first offense when it’s considered a traffic violation instead of a criminal misdemeanor, can have life-changing consequences. The mere fact that the police arrested you on suspicion of drunk driving can cause personal shame when you inform your family, friends or employer. It can also cause a lot of disruption in your life due to having to attend court appointments, possibly take time off work and, perhaps, not be able to drive yourself where you need to go.
Having a strong support network in place is helpful
If it was not the first time you faced arrest for DUI, your situation may be even more dire. Regardless of your driving record or criminal record histories, it may be less stressful to navigate the civil justice or criminal justice system when you have a support network that includes someone well-versed in Wisconsin state laws who can help mitigate your circumstances as much as possible.