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What Happens If You Cause Injury to Another While Drunk Driving?

By Andrew Mishlove on February 15, 2013


Most community members know the basics of Wisconsin OWI law. A person is illegally operating a vehicle if he or she is under the influence of an intoxicant (controlled substance or any other drug), with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or greater. Any detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in the blood is sufficient for an OWI charge.

The possible penalties for an OWI vary considerably depending on different factors. The number of previous offenses, the exact BAC level, who else is in the car, and similar details can alter available punishments. Significantly, if a driver causes bodily harm while under the influence, they face serious penalties. It goes without saying that if you face an OWI bodily injury charge, you should seek out the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

OWI Bodily Injury in Wisconsin

As you might expect, if you cause injury while driving under the influence, the possible penalties for a conviction are steeper than if no one is injured. Under Wisconsin law there is a distinction between causing any injury and causing “great bodily harm.” In general, great bodily harm refers to serious harm that creates a substantial risk of death, causes serious and permanent disfigurement, or damages organ functioning. These definitions are vague. If you are charged with a felony injury, it may be that there is a good argument that the injury is only a misdemeanor level situation.

The first offense OWI with injury usually comes with a risk of a fine of up to $2,000 and jail time between 30 days to a year. However, if a minor under 16 years old was in the car at the time, the offense is a felony and the possible fines and jail times can double.

A second offense OWI with injury is far more severe. It is also a felony and comes with up to $10,000 in fines, along with 6 years in prison. An OWI causing great bodily harm comes with enhanced penalties. If convicted of this Class F felony, you may face a $25,000 fine and up to 12 ½ years in prison.

You Have Defense Options

It is easy to assume the worst when facing any DUI-related charge. But it is vital to remember that you have many legal options to both fight the charges and work toward less stringent punishments. An experienced OWI attorney can explain some of the most common defenses that might apply in your case.

For example, did the authorities follow proper procedure when collecting evidence about the incident and ascertaining your intoxication? If they cut corners or failed to respect your rights, then the charge may be challenged. Are the tests used to verify your alcohol content reliable? There are many examples of tests being tainted or handled improperly, leading to unreliable information that cannot stand in court.

Do not sit idly by and allow your life to be forever altered by an OWI conviction. Retain a qualified OWI lawyer and protect yourself.

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