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Wisconsin OWI Laws Also Include Drugs

By Andrew Mishlove on June 06, 2013


Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) means operating a vehicle while under the influence of any chemical that has a negative effect on the driver’s abilities.

While most cases involve drunk driving, law enforcement officers may arrest someone for OWI for prescription drugs and over-the counter medications as well as controlled substances, commonly referred to as street drugs.

Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drug OWI

OWI DrugsIt is a driver’s responsibility to ensure that any medications or prescription drugs will not interfere with his or her driving abilities. There are situations where the effect of a prescription drug may be unforeseeable or involuntary, and that may be a defense to the charge; but, the mere fact that the substance is a prescription drug is not automatically a defense. If the prescription is mixed with alcohol, it can be real trouble.

While some drugs may carry a warning on the label regarding possible changes in judgment or abilities, others may not. Medications may impair driving it they have an effect on depth or distance perception, make one dizzy or foggy, slow reaction time, etc.

The same rules of thumb apply to any side effects from over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Do not mix them with alcohol and do not drive when using them if they impair your abilities.

Controlled Substances

The law restricts a driver from operating a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of an illegal substance in one’s system. At Mishlove and Stuckert, we have successfully defended cases where the issue was the reliability of the blood test result and whether there actually was a detectable amount of a controlled substance present. Nevertheless, it is illegal to drive with delta-9 THC, cocaine, etc., in you system, even if you feel fine.

Refusing to submit to a chemical test, no matter what type of drug or medication may be involved, automatically comes with a revocation of one’s Wisconsin driver’s license for a minimum of one year and an ignition interlock order.

Punishments for a First-Time Offense

If found guilty of a first OWI offense, or it’s the first in at least ten years, a driver will be required to pay a fine of up to $300 (plus a $365 OWI surcharge) and his or her license will be revoked for up to 9 months.

Should there be a passenger under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time, the driver will be fined up to $1,100 and be required to go to jail for up to six months. The driver will also be required to install and maintain an Ignition Interlock Device on all vehicles titled or registered in his or her name.

For more information read: What is the Law on Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Wisconsin?

If you or someone you know has been charged with OWI involving drugs contact our office immediately to get the legal advice you deserve.

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