Researching potential jurors is in your client’s best interest

For those of us who try cases, one of the most critical things in terms of trying a case is picking the jury. It is crucial to obtain as much information about prospective jurors as possible. Painstakingly reviewing the jury questionnaires prior to the jury selection is imperative. In fact using social media it is easy to plug an individual’s name into the various social media applications and a simple google search and glean information about that juror. Failure to go through this exercise could seriously impact an attorney’s ability to knowledgeably strike the jury.

Mistaken reason for stop, no problem

Look out Wisconsin drivers, the United States Supreme Court has now ruled that an officer can stop you for a violation even if the officer is mistaken about the reason for the stop. The message from the Supreme Court in Heien v. North Carolina holds that if an officer thinks he has a reason to stop you, even if his thought process is flawed, if the Court finds that his flawed thought process was reasonable, he has the right to stop you. What does this means if you are charged with operating while under the influence of an intoxicant in Wisconsin . . . further erosion of the Fourth Amendment in our country. Decisions like this highlight the importance of having an aggressive approach to defending your OWI in Wisconsin.

Charged with an OWI in Wisconsin?

Simply because you are charged with operating while under the influence of an intoxicant in Wisconsin does not mean that you are guilty. In any case, the government has the burden of establishing each fact to a high degree of proof. In all criminal cases, it is beyond a reasonable doubt. You can either agree to relieve the government of that burden by pleading guilty, or hold the government to their burden by aggressively defending your case.

New OWI Laws proposed in Wisconsin

The proposed new OWI laws intend to make it tougher on multiple offenders and those who injure someone when operating while impaired.  Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s mandatory penalty system needlessly removes charging and sentencing discretion from both the state and court.  While mandatory penalties provide certainty, not all OWI offenses are equal.  Each case does not neatly fit into the sentencing scheme.  Cookie cutter justice for everyone is not necessarily justice for all.  Wisconsin should return to a system that gives the State and Court discretion in both charging and sentencing.

Driver’s license in Wisconsin after revocation or suspension in another state

Questions frequently arise regarding whether or not an individual who has been suspended or revoked in another state can get licensed in Wisconsin. Normally, if you have an out of state license, and some action has been taken against your license your home state, Wisconsin will require you to have that action cleared and be reinstated in that state before you can be licensed in Wisconsin. In this type of a case, it is very important to consult an attorney in both states to determine the ramifications of that action. It is important to be proactive, that is to understand the consequences before entering any plea to a charge in any state.

Timing for installing an Ignition Interlock Device in Wisconsin

Questions frequently arise regarding the timing for installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID). The concern that arises is whether an individual has to be relicensed before they will receive credit towards having the IID on their vehicle. Normally, if an individual tests over a .15 on a first offense, has refused chemical testing, or has a second or subsequent offense, the Court is required to order that the individual install an Ignition Interlock Device on vehicle titled in their name. The question becomes if the person installs that IID immediately, and waits to get relicensed at some time in the future, does the person get credit towards the IID period from the date that the device was installed or from the date that he was relicensed.  The answer to that question is: it depends.

The Court must order installation of an IID in the situations described above. When the Court orders a period for which the IID must be installed, the time period starts to run upon the individual getting any license, unless the Court orders the IID to be installed immediately. Thus, the Court has the option of ordering the IID be installed immediately. When the Court orders immediate installation, the counting period runs from the moment that the person installs the IID device.

Therefore, it is critical that the client is made aware of the specific order and the timing for which the device is required.  Being proactive in installing an Ignition Interlock Device prior to a conviction or immediately upon conviction is not necessarily a benefit to the client and the client may not receive credit for the entire period that the device is on their vehicle. That is, the client may be required to have that device installed longer than the actual period the court ordered.

It is critical that clients are made aware of the differences in terms of the Ignition Interlock orders.  These issues should be discussed with a qualified attorney.


ignition_interlock (Photo credit: VCU CNS)

OWI and Veterans Treatment Court in Wisconsin

60 Minutes recently ran a segment on “Invisible wounds of war”

English: Cases of PTSD and Severe Depression A...

English: Cases of PTSD and Severe Depression Among U.S. Veterans Deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan Between Oct 2001 and Oct 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

that dealt with the traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and very real post-traumatic stress our veterans suffer as a result of combat. In Wisconsin, this issue needs to be brought to the forefront with courts considering Veteran’s Treatment Court for veterans who are charged with OWI and have mental health issues related to Post Traumatic Street Disorder (PTSD).

Unfortunately, many courts and prosecutors are not aware of the very real difficulties that occur with PTSD. Prosecutors seem unwilling in many situations to recommend Veteran’s Treatment Court inasmuch as their belief is that it somehow mitigates potential punishment. Veteran’s Treatment Court is an option in multiple OWI situations.  Veterans who have received a civil or criminal operating while under the influence of intoxicant charge and who have been diagnosed with PTSD, in many cases have significant issues relating to alcohol that should be addressed in a setting other than confinement.

Too often, prosecutors seem to make simple guideline recommendations.  Their actions seem to suggest that every case should fall into some neatly wrapped punishment package. I feel it is important to begin the process of educating courts and prosecutors regarding the Veteran’s Treatment Court options that are available in Wisconsin. In addition, as defense attorneys, we need to begin the process of educating prosecutors and courts alike on the symptoms and diagnoses of PTSD and other brain injury disorders related to military service. Hopefully, with a little education, the courts and prosecutors will start to see that Veterans Treatment Court is a viable option to help our veterans gain the necessary treatment to help them to live alcohol free in society.