Driving vs Operating a Motor Vehicle In OWI Cases

Driving vs Operating a Motor Vehicle In OWI Cases

Driving vs. Operating a Motor Vehicle in a Drunk Driving Case

In Wisconsin, the distinction between “operating” and “driving” a motor vehicle under the influence plays a crucial role in OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) charges. Misconceptions abound, but simply having keys in the vehicle while intoxicated isn’t sufficient grounds for an OWI conviction. Let’s delve into what constitutes “operating” versus “driving” for an OWI charge and the implications for your defense.

Operating a Motor Vehicle – OWI

“Operating” a vehicle encompasses the physical manipulation or activation of any vehicle controls necessary to set it in motion. Notably, the vehicle need not be moving to meet this criterion, challenging the common belief that keys in the ignition automatically equate to guilt. The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling in Village of Cross Plains v. Haanstad clarified that mere presence in the driver’s seat of a parked, running car does not constitute “operation” unless it’s proven the individual activated the vehicle’s controls.

Driving a Motor Vehicle – OWI

“Driving,” on the other hand, is more straightforward, involving physical control over a vehicle’s speed and direction while it’s moving. This aspect is easier to prove, especially if the accused was stopped for a traffic violation. However, the validity of the stop itself can be crucial. An invalid or illegal stop by an officer can lead to suppression of evidence obtained during the stop, emphasizing the need for a skilled OWI attorney to scrutinize the stop’s legality.

Timing Matters in OWI Cases

The timing of operation or driving relative to when an alcohol test is administered is vital. Wisconsin law suggests that breath or blood alcohol concentration tests taken within three hours of operating or driving can reflect the defendant’s alcohol level at the time of the incident. If the prosecution cannot prove the test occurred within this timeframe, they face significant hurdles, though results may still be admissible with sufficient expert testimony.

In scenarios where individuals are arrested post-vehicle breakdown or found asleep in their car, a tangible defense against DUI charges may exist. The less law enforcement knows about the timing of driving or consumption, the stronger the defense.

Whether facing a first offense, second, or subsequent OWI offense, the expertise of an aggressive criminal defense attorney is indispensable. At DK Anderson, S.C., we specialize in dissecting the nuances of OWI charges, ensuring your rights are robustly defended. If you’re navigating the complexities of an OWI charge, contact us for a comprehensive defense strategy tailored to your case.

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