Homicide charges involving drunk driving in Wisconsin explained

On behalf of Jessa Nicholson at Nicholson, Gansner & Otis, S.C.

If you have been accused of killing someone because of drunk driving, it's likely you are in crisis. You may be replaying the accident over and over in your mind. You never intended to hurt anyone. If you could go back and change the outcome, you would - but you can't. Now you are facing criminal charges that will not only affect you, but also significantly affect your loved ones.

You are probably aware of the seriousness of the charges against you. These charges can mean the loss of your freedom, the loss of your assets, and the loss of your ability to provide for your family. You can't do anything about what happened - now the issue is how best to handle the situation moving forward.

In Wisconsin, there are two potential criminal charges you may face after a fatal accident involving alcohol occurs. They are:

Homicide by Negligent Operation of a Vehicle

In order to be convicted of Homicide by Negligent Operation of a Vehicle, you must have acted in a criminally negligent manner and substantially caused the death of another. The second element is important, as you can argue that your actions did not substantially cause the death of another. In other words, the death would have occurred without alcohol being involved.

In order to be convicted of driving with criminal negligence, the prosecution must show you should have realized your actions created a situation of unreasonable risk and high probability of death or great bodily harm to another.

Homicide by Negligent Operation of a Vehicle is a Class G felony, punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a fine of $25,000.

Homicide by Intoxicated Use of Vehicle or Firearm

You may also be charged with Homicide by Intoxicated Use of Vehicle or Firearm in the wake of a fatal accident involving alcohol. Under state law, you can be charged with OWI homicide if you were driving with a prohibited alcohol concentration and you caused the death of another. A prohibited blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent or higher, unless you are under 21 or have previous OWIs, in which case it could be a BAC of .02 or greater.

Prosecutors will attempt to prove you were under the influence through the results of breath, blood and urine tests, as well as evidence regarding intoxication at the scene of the accident, such as slurred speech, poor motor skills, and the smell of alcohol or other substance.

Homicide by Intoxicated Use of Vehicle or Firearm is a Class D felony, with a maximum fine of $100,000 and 25 years in prison. For defendants with previous convictions involving alcohol, it is a Class C felony, with a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

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Prosecutors must prove all elements of the above charges beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a jury to convict you. In addition, while maximum penalties are severe, judges do have discretion when determining sentencing.

Each criminal case is highly dependent upon individual circumstances. The best defense to these charges depends on the goals of the defendant, the strength of the prosecution's case, and other factors. At Nicholson, Gansner & Otis, S.C., we are able to protect our clients' best interests throughout the criminal law process. Contact our office to discuss your particular situation and best options moving forward.

Keywords: Drunk driving, homicide, felony charges, Homicide by Negligent Operation of a Vehicle, Homicide by Intoxicated Use of Vehicle, criminal defense, Nicholson & Gansner, S.C.