OWI arrests throughout Wisconsin often increase dramatically over the holiday season. People celebrate the holidays at gatherings where alcohol is served. Accordingly, police departments increase enforcement efforts during the holiday season to deter and catch drunk drivers. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are among the days when there is the highest number of OWI arrests.
What you do after an OWI arrest can determine whether you face legal consequences and how serious they are. While you may not be able to do anything in the immediate aftermath to make your case go away, you can certainly do things to cloud your legal picture.
Try to Remain Calm as Possible
Initially, the most important part is not to panic if you have been pulled over. Yes, you may be facing difficult legal consequences, but panic can make them even worse. Officers are looking for evidence and possible signs of other potential crimes. It is easier said than done to remain calm when you realize that you may be arrested and charged. However, panic will make a bad situation worse.
Know Your Options and Possible Penalties at the Scene
Officers may ask you to do one or both of the following at the scene of an OUI traffic stop:
- Step out of your vehicle for a field sobriety test
- Submit to a Breathalyzer test
You do not have to comply when they ask you to step out of the car. In fact, you are taking a chance if you do so. Even if you are not over the legal limit, you may struggle with your balance, especially if you are stopped at night and are nervous.
You do have a legal obligation to take the Breathalyzer test, and you can be punished for a refusal. You will lose your driver’s license for a period of time, and officers may still be able to get a warrant to draw blood for a chemical test after you have been taken to the station. If you refuse to take the test, you should know the consequences.
Do Not Admit Guilt, Ever
Never admit that you have been drinking if you have been pulled over by an officer. If you have admitted your guilt, either at the scene or the station house, it can and will be used against you in the future. You will hurt your own negotiating position if you choose to work for a plea deal because the prosecutor will not need to give up anything in exchange for a guilty plea because you have already given them the ammunition. If you later choose to fight the charges against you, admitting that you were drinking will make it much more difficult. Even if you were able to get a Breathalyzer test thrown out, your admission that you were drinking will give prosecutors powerful evidence.
Do Not Answer Questions from Law Enforcement
In a similar regard, you should politely refuse to answer any questions that you are asked. You have the legal right to both decline to answer questions and have an attorney present if officers are trying to question you. Even though you are advised of your rights, you have to tell officers that you will not answer their questions and that you want an attorney present. When officers advise you that anything you say can and will be used against you, they are telling the absolute truth. Many people charged with a crime end up making their lives more difficult because they think that they can talk their way out of trouble. An experienced lawyer will tell you that it is not possible – and even detrimental – to try to explain your way out of consequences.
Get Legal Help Immediately After an OUI Arrest
You should contact an experienced attorney immediately after your arrest. The criminal justice system is a frightening place to find yourself, and it is even more so if you are on your own. While there are serious consequences of an OWI conviction, you may not be in as desperate of a legal position as you think. Hiring an attorney can give you options.
An OWI lawyer can review your case to determine whether there are defenses that can be used to fight the charges against you and potentially win an acquittal. They can also help you if you choose to negotiate with the prosecutor to obtain a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty or no-contest plea. There is even a possibility that you could end up in a diversion program with your sentence suspended. You may still lose the ability to drive for a certain period of time, but your attorney could help you stay out of jail for an OWI. Prosecutors often want to quickly win an OUI conviction because they have very busy dockets, and they want to move on to the next case.
Remember Details and Write Them Down
After you have been released from custody, you should do everything you can to remember what happened as best as possible and write it down. You will be speaking to an attorney after that, and you will want to give them all the possible facts. The attorney could then review the facts and help you determine the best possible path forward. There may be particular facts about how you were stopped or tested that your lawyer could seize upon to help you build a legal defense.
Contact an Appleton Criminal Defense Attorney
The attorneys at Hogan Eickhoff work to defend your legal rights if you have been charged with a crime. We strive to understand our clients and their own situations before we advise you of your legal options. We will get to the bottom of your case and help you with your path forward. You need legal help right after you have been arrested. To schedule your free initial consultation, contact us at (920) 450-9800.