DUI/OWI Homicide Charges: Fatal Crash Penalties and Your Legal Defense By Andrew Mishlove on February 27, 2024

Man on couch in living room feeling regret over something he's done

Fatal drunk driving accidents are the most difficult and important cases we work on. Not only is so much at stake for our clients but so much has been lost for the other party.

Let's examine the severe legal penalties for DUI/OWI homicide in Wisconsin and how we approach these kinds of cases with profound sensitivity. If you have been charged with OWI homicide, request a consultation to tell us your story as soon as possible.


How Wisconsin Law Classifies Fatal OWI Accidents

In Wisconsin, vehicular homicides that involve alcohol consumption are called homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. The charge covers the death of another person, including unborn children. Homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle is the most common charge we see for clients involved in a fatal crash.

For drivers without any prior OWI/DUI-related offenses, the state classifies homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle as a Class D felony.

For drivers with one or more prior OWI/DUI-related offenses, homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle is a Class C felony.

Other Types of Vehicular Homicide

There are two other classifications for vehicular homicide in Wisconsin, though these don't always apply to OWI homicide situations:

  • First-Degree Reckless Homicide - First-degree reckless homicide is not exclusive to incidents involving vehicles. This charge requires proof that an individual demonstrated an "utter disregard for human life." An example would be evading authorities in a high-speed chase that endangers the lives of other motorists and pedestrians. This Class B felony rarely applies to OWI homicide cases.
  • Homicide by Negligent Operation of a Vehicle - This Class G felony is more common in OWI-homicide situations than first-degree reckless homicide. To prove homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle, the evidence must show that the driver demonstrated criminal negligence, meaning that a person knowingly engaged in behavior that posed a substantial and unreasonable risk of death or great bodily harm to others.

Older woman grieving alone in her home

Penalties for Homicide by Intoxicated Use of a Vehicle

The penalties for homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle include:

  • Class D Felony

    • Up to 25 years in prison
    • Fines up to $100,000
    • Driver's license revocation for five years
    • 120-day waiting period to apply for an occupational permit
  • Class C Felony

    • Up to 40 years in prison
    • Fines up to $100,000
    • Driver's license revocation for 10 years
    • One-year waiting period to apply for an occupational permit

Presumptive Minimum Penalty of Five Years Confinement

In Wisconsin, OWI homicide carries a presumptive minimum prison sentence of five years. This applies to both Class D and Class C felonies.

A judge can decide to reduce a person's minimum prison sentence if the court identifies a compelling reason to do so.

There is so much on the line in OWI homicide cases, which is why you need a lawyer to advocate for you. If you are charged with felony homicide for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, you need to speak with the team at Mishlove & Stuckert.


Cases Like These Deserve Sensitivity and Attention

In any OWI homicide case, we must acknowledge the strong feelings of all people involved and approach matters with a higher degree of sensitivity.

The friends and family members of the deceased are angry, sad, and grieving, and we cannot dismiss the validity of everything they are feeling. And yet, while respecting the heavy emotions of the bereaved, we still need to provide our clients with the best defense possible.

We take this balance of sympathy and professional due diligence extremely seriously. Our approach is built on our years of experience interacting with bereaved loved ones and getting to know our clients and the stories of their lives.

Loved ones embracing each other and crying because of a profound, unfathomable sadness

Building a Defense Strategy Around You and Your Story

One of the most important things we do for clients is tell their stories.

Who you are as a person - the whole depth and breadth of your existence - is more than just this felony charge. You have hopes and dreams and setbacks; you have an entire lifetime that we want to hear about so the jury can learn about the real you. Storytelling in trial advocacy is more than just simplifying complicated facts about forensic science. You and your life are at the center of the best defense we can offer.

It's difficult to change a person's mind, but by telling your story in a compelling way, we can appeal to the jury's values and frame the events in a manner that changes the jury's perception of the case.

What Distinguishes Us From Other OWI Defense Attorneys in Wisconsin

Here are three reasons why Mishlove & Stuckert stands apart from other Wisconsin law firms that handle OWI homicide cases.

We Are the ONLY Board-Certified Drunk Driving Defense Specialists in Wisconsin

Attorney Lauren Stuckert and I are still Wisconsin's only board-certified specialists in drunk driving defense. We are the state's true experts in handling the most difficult OWI cases in which everything you've worked for may be at stake.

We Have Extensive Knowledge of Forensic Science and BAC Testing

Lauren and I both have extensive technical training in blood draws, sobriety tests, and forensic science, which includes developing seminars and coursework based on our knowledge. We know the variables in testing and law enforcement procedure that could lead to false positives and inaccurate BAC results.

We Help Avoid an Overlap Between Restitution and Damages

In addition to the criminal case, OWI homicide clients may also have to deal with a concurrent civil case. On some occasions, when there is a civil claim for damages above your insurance policy limits, we can provide representation in the civil matter.

Need to Speak With a Defense Lawyer?

Contact Mishlove & Stuckert to Tell Us Your Story

Speak with Wisconsin's only board-certified specialists for drunk driving defense. We are ready to listen to you. Contact our law firm to set up a consultation. We can meet at our offices in Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Waukesha, or West Bend.



Andrew Mishlove

About Andrew Mishlove
A board-certified OWI defense specialist, Andrew Mishlove has practiced law in Wisconsin since 1981. He is a nationally recognized figure when it comes to drunk and intoxicated driving defense. Mr. Mishlove is the author of Wisconsin OWI Defense: The Law and Practice and is on the Board of Regents of the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD).

Read Mr. Mishlove's Full Bio | All Posts by Mr. Mishlove

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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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