Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) – also known as “drunk driving” – is one of the most common ways Wisconsinites come into contact with law enforcement. In Wisconsin, the first OWI offense is still treated as a civil forfeiture matter. This means, unless there was a child in the car or an accident, that jail time is already off the table. However, there are still stiff financial penalties and driver’s license issues, not to mention the stigma of a conviction, to deal with and possibly challenge.
For many, being arrested for OWI is the only time they’ve interacted with Wisconsin’s criminal justice system. This is a good thing, of course. However, many of my clients miss a critical first step in challenging or at least getting a good opinion on whether their OWI arrest was legal: they forget to challenge the automatic administrative suspension of their license.
In Wisconsin when someone is arrested for OWI they are given notice that their driver’s license will be administratively suspended. What does this mean? Essentially, the police officer who arrested you sends notice to Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) that you have been arrested. Wisconsin DOT then automatically suspends your license.
It almost doesn’t seem fair – having your license suspended before you have been to a court hearing, read your police reports, or consulted with an attorney.
Luckily, there is a way to slow down this automatic process. Upon your release, the police are required to provide you an administrative review request form if they are asking DOT to administratively suspend your license. This form allows you to ask for a hearing to challenge the suspension. You must mail this form in within 10 days of your arrest or the automatic suspension will occur.
(If you’ve lost the form you can download it here: DefenseWisconsin.com MV3530 Administrative Review Request)
Now, the form asks what kind of hearing you would like. As a rule of thumb, I request a telephonic hearing.
Once DOT receives the form, they are required to review the police reports of your arrest. You also have the right to subpoena your arresting officer to the administrative hearing.
Here’s a little known added benefit – often the arresting police officer or their department will fail to send in their police reports. When this happens DOT does not administratively suspend your license – and your license remains valid until (and if) you are found guilty of OWI or Prohibited Blood Alcohol Content (PAC) 1st offense in your court case.
Therefore, by at least sending in this form, you either slow down or stop the administrative suspension of your Wisconsin driver’s license. This will give you the opportunity to speak with me or another Wisconsin attorney would handles OWI/drunk driving cases before this major inconvenience happens.
Feel free to call me on my cellphone if you’d like to discuss this in more detail: 414-308-3090.