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OWI and License Suspension

August 2015

When speaking with people who were arrested for Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated (OWI), I find that they are often fixated upon the date of their first court appearance. Unfortunately, there are several processes which are set into motion the night of the incident, and penalties can be imposed even before the first court date. I’d like to summarize the process of driver’s license suspension/revocation that I see most often in OWI cases in this area.

1. Arrest and Sample
In Northeast Wisconsin, nearly all law enforcement agencies prefer to test your blood upon arrest for OWI. In most cases, the blood sample is sent to the State Hygiene Lab to be tested.

2. Notice of Suspension
Usually, the arresting officer will receive the results of that blood test within a few weeks. If the sample indicates a prohibited alcohol concentration, the officer will forward the results on to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the officer will provide you with a "Notice of Suspension of Operating Privilege." This document informs you that the DOT will be suspending your license within 30 days of you receiving the notice.

3. Administrative Review
At this point, a person has the ability to challenge the DOT suspension through the administrative review process. Within TEN days of receiving the Notice of Suspension of Operating Privilege, you must fill out the accompanying form to request review in one of three ways: In person, by phone, or by mail. The DOT will then allow you an opportunity to explain why your license should not be suspended (there are only 7 arguments that can be made). The DOT will then issue a decision within a week as to whether or not your license will be suspended at that time.

4. Judicial Review
If you are not satisfied with the administrative review process, you also have the opportunity to appeal the DOT decision to the Circuit Court.

5. Circuit Court
If this is an OWI-2nd or subsequent offense, you will be charged criminally and will have to appear in circuit court. Even if your license has not already been suspended through the process outlined above, if you are found guilty in court, your license will be revoked.

6. Refusal
If an officer asked you to provide a blood, breath, or urine sample upon arrest for OWI and you refused to give your consent, you have TEN days from the date of the refusal to notify the circuit court that you wish to challenge the refusal. If you do nothing, in ten days, a Judge will enter a default judgment against you. The penalties for a refusal can be more severe than the underlying OWI itself.

If you, or someone you know, has been arrested for OWI, you should contact an attorney, discuss your situation and begin developing a strategy to address these issues.

Attorney Travis Schreurs

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As always, seek the advice of a qualified legal professional regarding any legal issues you may have. You should not disregard professional advice or refrain from seeking professional advice because of anything contained in this article. The information contained herein is general and educational in nature. Because each case is different and each legal analysis is customized for individual clients, the information contained in this article should never be used to determine your legal rights.

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