Vehicular Homicide OWI Penalties By Andrew Mishlove on March 02, 2021

Person clasping hands through prison bars

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, there were 6,058 alcohol-related crashes in 2019. These collisions resulted in 140 fatalities. These statistics are misleading as the DOT includes cases where a non-driver was intoxicated, where a driver had a bad reaction to prescription medication, etc.

In fatal crashes, a person accused of intoxicated or even reckless driving may face vehicular homicide charges for operating while intoxicated (OWI)-homicide, or reckless homicide. The penalties for vehicular OWI homicide are severe. OWI-homicide now carries a “presumptive” minimum prison sentence of five years with much more severe possible maximum penalties.

The legal team at Mishlove & Stuckert, LLC Attorneys at Law are Wisconsin’s top experts in the investigation, law, and the defense of vehicular homicide charges in the State of Wisconsin. We will explain the penalties, and why it’s important to have a real expert as your lawyer if you are facing such serious charges.

Types of Vehicular Homicide

The State of Wisconsin has three possible classifications for vehicular homicide.

1.    The first possible charge is first-degree reckless homicide, although this is not specific to vehicles. This is rarely used in an OWI-homicide situation. It requires proof of “circumstances which show utter disregard for human life.” An example might be a high-speed chase where a driver disregards the safety of other drivers or pedestrians to evade the police. This is a class B felony that carries up to 60 years in prison. 

2.    The second, more common charge is homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle. This requires proof of a high degree of negligence, more than mere “ordinary negligence.” An example of this might be a driver who decides to run a red light but doesn’t know that there are people at risk in the intersection.

3.    The charge that we often see is “homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle,” or OWI-homicide. This requires proof that the driver caused the death of a person and the driver had consumed too much alcohol or other substance. It can be charged solely on the basis of a chemical test result, such as an alcohol level over .08, or a (delta-9) THC level of .1 or more. For a CDL driver, the legal limit may be .04. For a driver with three or more prior convictions, the legal limit is .02. Like any OWI case, it can also be charged with a test result under the legal limit, if there is proof an impairment anyway. We often see it charged with prescription medication, even when those medications are taken per doctor’s orders. Because of the seriousness of OWI-homicide charges, we defend these at the very highest level. 

Penalties for Homicide by Intoxicated Use of a Vehicle, or OWI-Homicide

In the state of Wisconsin, homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle is considered a class D felony. Drivers charged with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle face up to 25 years in prison and fines up to $100,000. Wisconsin now has a non-mandatory, presumptive minimum prison sentence of five years for OWI-homicide. This means that the law requires a judge to impose at least a 5-year prison sentence unless the judge makes specific findings and rules that a lesser sentence is required. Many courts are also now holding that at least one year confinement in prison is absolutely mandatory, but as of November of 2021, this is under appeal.

Stricter Penalties If You Have Prior OWI Charges

While these penalties are harsh, there are even harsher penalties for people who have a prior OWI on their record. 

For people with a prior OWI, the charges will go from a class D felony to a class C felony. Penalties for class C penalties include up to 40 years in prison and fines up to $100,000.

Additional Penalties for OWI Vehicular Homicide

In addition to possible prison and fines, people accused of OWI-homicide face penalties and restrictions regarding the use of their vehicle and driving privileges.
Class D felony OWI homicide charges typically result in:

  • Driver’s license revocation for five years.
  • 120-day wait period to apply for an occupational driver’s license
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID)

Those charged with a class C felony with multiple OWI charges in the past five years will face these harsher restrictions and penalties:

  • Driver’s license revocation for 10 years
  • 1-year wait period to apply for an occupational driver’s license
  • Mandatory IID in vehicle for 10 years

Why You Need an OWI Lawyer

If you are accused of any vehicular homicide, and especially an OWI-homicide, you will probably feel like your world is coming to an end. The tragedy of a death is bad enough, and much worse when criminal accusations are leveled against you. This is a situation where you need the very best lawyer that you can find. You need a lawyer that is well-experienced in handling death cases, and especially OWI-homicide cases. Handling these cases requires a lawyer to be an expert in the law and an expert in the science. This requires very specialized training that very few lawyers have obtained. These cases also require a lawyer to be an expert in the courtroom and an expert in the tragic personal and emotional dynamics of death cases. This requires the lawyer to have extensive experience in these cases, which is also very rare.

These cases change the lives of everybody who is touched by them, at least two families. If you have experienced an accident involving death, and you are now facing a life-changing accusation, it costs nothing to consult with an attorney who is pre-eminent in this specialized field of law.

At Mishlove and Stuckert, LLC, we are Wisconsin’s only true board-certified, ABA-accredited specialists in OWI cases, including OWI-homicide cases. We are recognized nationally as one of the top law firms in the country and the leading law firm in Wisconsin in defending OWI-homicide charges.

Speak with Our OWI Attorneys

There is no charge for an initial consultation.

If you have been accused of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, or OWI-homicide, it is truly crucial that you speak with an expert OWI-homicide lawyer about defense. To schedule a legal consultation, contact us online or call Mishlove & Stuckert, LLC Attorneys at Law at (414) 206-6978.

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Andrew Mishlove and Lauren Stuckert

Mishlove and Stuckert, LLC Attorneys at Law

Mishlove & Stuckert, LLC Attorneys at Law has been rated the #1 OWI/DUI law firm in the state by Wisconsin Law Journal Reader Rankings. Our OWI/DUI specialists have been highly rated by organizations including: 

  • Avvo™
  • Super Lawyers
  • Martindale-Hubbell 
  • Better Business Bureau 

To speak with one of our board-certified OWI/DUI defense specialists, request a consultation online or call us at (414) 332-3499.

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