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Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) – Refusing BAC Testing

Most drivers understand that getting convicted of OWI in Wisconsin means that you will face several different consequences.  An OWI conviction can result in hefty fines, jail time, and the loss of your driver’s license.  But what many people don’t understand is that the loss of your driver’s license can occur very shortly after your arrest for OWI, but long before you are ever actually convicted.  This loss of your driver’s license can come about in one of two ways, but in this article we will focus on revocations which result from refusing the testing of your breath, blood, or urine (refusal).

In Wisconsin, section 343.305 of the Wisconsin Statutes says that if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that you have been operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated he/she may then request that you provide a sample of your breath, blood, or urine in order to find out what your blood alcohol concentration is.  Before they can make this request the officer has to read a form to you called the Informing the Accusing.  It is a rather lengthy and cryptic form which basically tells you that the officer can ask you to participate in the testing, and if you don’t your license could be revoked.  If you refuse to participate in the test, we call it a “refusal”.

Refusing blood, breath or urine testing when an officer has probable cause to request it can mean rather severe consequences against your driver’s license.  A refusal can result in a 12 month revocation of your license, a 30 day waiting period for an occupational license, and the installation of an ignition interlock device in any vehicle that you own or operate for 12 months (and it doesn’t matter what your BAC is).  These penalties are worse than the driver’s license penalties for an actual OWI – 1st offense conviction, and it could happen before you even go to court for the OWI.

Many people don’t even realize that they have been found to be in violation of the refusal laws.  Getting arrested for OWI can be very stressful and traumatic.  People often just focus on the ticket that says Operating While Intoxicated on it with a court date in the upper left corner, and put the rest of the paperwork on a shelf to deal with later, not realizing that their driver’s license is about to get revoked.  They often don’t realize that they refused the test at all because they had submitted themselves to the officer’s breathalyzer device after they did the field sobriety tests and therefore think that they have already submitted to the chemical testing.  However, this small handheld device that officers often use on the roadside is not an official test that can be used in court.  An official breathalyzer is a larger machine that is often located elsewhere (police station, jail, truck stop, etc.) the results of which can be used in court.  Or, you may be taken to a hospital to have your blood drawn.

If a person is found to have refused chemical testing, the officer must then provide them with a form called Notice of Intent to Revoke Operating Privilege.  This notice tells the driver that they have 10 days from that date (often date of arrest) if they wish to file a request with the court to fight the refusal and subsequent revocation of driver’s license.  It also tells them that in 30 days their license will be revoked.

The OWI laws and how they affect your driver’s license can be very confusing.  That is why it is best to hire an experienced attorney who will not only fight your OWI, but also help you to navigate through the strange and very misunderstood world of suspensions and revocations.

You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to legal advice from an attorney.  If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult with an attorney immediately.  You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information on this website.

The law firm of Simon & Feldhausen, LLC is a Green Bay law office comprised of Green Bay attorneys who are experienced in the areas of OWI and how those charges can impact a person’s employment, freedom, driver’s license, and other areas of a person’s life.