OWI, otherwise known as operating (a motor vehicle) while intoxicated, is not an infraction that you should be too excited about. Unfortunately, unlike what many people think, it is not just a citation where you have to pay a fine. It is also not a crime where the judge is likely to let you off with just a fine. No, OWI is a crime that judges in most jurisdictions take very seriously and often issue the harshest penalties available, even when you have competent legal representation.
Here is what you need to know about OWI and what happens during and after your arrest.
When you are stopped, most often it has nothing to do with a suspicion that you have been drinking. In most cases, you are being stopped for some other infraction. Maybe you ran a stop sign or were speeding or even had a light out. It isn’t until the officer begins his investigation that OWI even becomes a possibility.
The officer begins his investigation of you when he asks you a few innocuous questions. He is listening for whether or not you are slurring your words or are having any difficulty in forming logical sentences. He is also looking to see if he can detect the odor of alcohol on your breath. If any of these situations exist, you should expect that he will carry his investigation further.
The next step is to have you complete a field sobriety test. This test involves the officer demonstrating a series of tasks designed to determine whether or not your basic functions such as balance and spatial awareness. The tests are carried out in such a way as to ferret out not whether or not you have been drinking, but your level of impairment.
This brings up an interesting point. Most people believe that you have to test at the legal limit or above as far as BAC or blood alcohol level is concerned in order to be charged with OWI, but this couldn’t be any further from the truth. If you are impaired, you can be arrested, charged and convicted with OWI, regardless of what your BAC is. As a matter of fact, a blood or breath test to establish what your BAC is, is just the icing on the cake for an OWI case.
If the officer believes that you have been drinking and that you are impaired, either due to a failure of the field sobriety test or due to a refusal, which automatically results in a mandatory blood or breath test for alcohol levels, you will be arrested and charged. This includes taking a trip to the local police station, being booked in and sitting in jail until you are eligible for bond. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight. This is just the beginning of your woes. You will then spend up to a year going back and forth to court to answer for your charges and then be dealt a harsh penalty. And then, of course, there is the Arrest Records that will follow you for a lifetime.
Your OWI Arrest Records will follow you for the rest of your life.