Been arrested for OWI? If this is your first time, then there are a few things you should probably know in order to reduce your exposure to having the book thrown at you, so to speak, when it comes to sentencing.

If you have been arrested for OWI, you are most likely familiar with the first steps in the process. In most cases, drivers aren’t falling down drunk when they are pulled over. As a matter of fact, most traffic stops where an OWI is the end result don’t start out that way. The officer’s keen intuition kicks in when they pull you over for some other infraction that clues them in to the potential that you might have been consuming alcohol before driving that ultimately results in a OWI charge and arrest.

When the officer stopped you, you probably noticed that he or she spent some time asking you a few questions. The answers you give the officer provide several key pieces of information. Whether or not you can think logically. Whether or not you are slurring your words and whether or not you smell like alcohol. Each of these pieces of information will determine whether or not he has probable cause to pursue a field sobriety test.

If the officer feels as if they have enough evidence to support probable cause to take his or her investigation further, they will ask you to step out of the vehicle in order to conduct a field sobriety test. During this test you will be asked to perform a variety of tasks that are designed to test whether or not certain aspects of your demeanor have been compromised by your consumption of alcohol. The field sobriety test is not a test that can determine whether or not you are drunk nor can it determine the level of alcohol you have in your blood. It only determines whether or not your reflexes are impaired. Any findings will be followed up with a blood or breath test to prove that there is alcohol in your system.

If the officer determines you are, in fact, impaired, you can expect to be arrested, booked into your local jail and will ultimately be charged with OWI, which is a misdemeanor crime in most cases, but can be a felony based on whether or not you are a habitual offender or there are aggravating circumstances such as damage to personal property or injury to a person.

The next steps in the process are for you to hire an attorney to represent you in a court of law as your case is heard. This will not be an expedient process and you should expect to have to appear several times over the course of months or even up to a year. And, even if your lawyer is experienced, you will most likely have to face some penalties for your crime, especially if your blood alcohol test or breathalyzer comes back positive.

Unfortunately, another unavoidable aspect will be publicly available arrest records, just one more reason to avoid driving while impaired at all costs.

Marchelle Lamaster