Frequently Asked Questions
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When should I hire an attorney?
Your Privilege to Drive
Will I lose my driver’s license? Can I wait until my court date to take actions?
Will I lose my driver’s license? Can I wait until my court date to take actions?
If you wait until your court date to take action, it may be too late. You could lose your license – even before you go to court. You must either demand an “administrative suspension hearing” or a “refusal hearing,” depending on whether or not you submitted to a police blood test or breath test or refused to do so. Either way, the time limit is ten (10) days. If you don’t demand a hearing, you’ll lose your license, regardless of what happens in court. This isn’t part of the court case, so you can’t wait until you go to court to take care of it. You need to act promptly.
I received a notice of Intent to Suspend form. What does this mean?
Call Cohen Law Offices at 715-514-5051 immediately!
You received this form because you submitted to a breath or blood test and the result was over the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC over .08 for a first offense or .02 for a fourth or higher offense). You have ten (10) business days, not including holidays or weekends, from the notice date on that form to file an administrative review request (the yellow form). If you hire Cohen Law Offices within that 10-day period, their office will complete the form for you and request an administrative review hearing on your behalf with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Notice of Intent to Suspend form will serve as your temporary driving permit for 30 days from the date of the notice. Please read the Notice of Intent to Suspend form for any additional information. At the end of that 30-day period, your driving privileges will be suspended if:
(a) An administrative review request was not filed in a timely manner, or
(b) The administrative review hearing was lost (meaning that the suspension of your license was upheld).
At that point, you may be eligible for an occupational license.
I received a notice of Intent to Revoke form. What does this mean?
Call Cohen Law Offices at 715-514-5051 immediately!
You received this form because you are alleged to have refused the breath or blood test and you have an additional “refusal” charge with your OWI charge.
You have ten (10) business days from the notice date on that form to file a demand for refusal hearing. If you hire Cohen Law Offices within that 10-day period, their office will submit a Demand for Refusal to the court. The Notice of Intent to Revoke form will serve as your temporary driving receipt for 30 days from the notice date.
Provided that you hired Cohen Law Offices within the 10-day period, your operating privileges will not be revoked while your OWI case is pending. The court will schedule your case for a refusal hearing where the court will determine if your refusal to submit to the breath or blood test was proper. The outcome of that refusal hearing will determine if your driving privileges will be revoked.
If you are convicted of the refusal, there is a mandatory minimum one-year revocation of your operating privileges.
What about my CDL (Commercial Driver’s License)?
Because Wisconsin, like all states, permits only one driver's license to be issued to a person, a drunk driving conviction will always result in suspension or revocation of the person's commercial driver's license, or CDL. A CDL is not a separate driver's license. It is actually an endorsement conferring additional privileges to operate commercial vehicles requiring specific qualifications. It is an endorsement, however, based on issuance of a regular driver's license and, consequently, conviction of an offense requiring suspension or revocation of the driver's license always means that the CDL is revoked or suspended. This is true even if the person was not operating a commercial vehicle or "as a CDL" at the time of the violation.
For those who are subject to federal regulation, a drunk driving conviction will be considered a "major" violation and, thereby, can result in legal disqualification under applicable federal rules.
Insurance carriers often have their own rules governing employment of drivers with drunk driving convictions. Though each insurance company makes its own rules, trucking companies who haul interstate frequently are unwilling to hire or retain drivers with a drunk driving conviction because their insurance carriers will not allow them to do so. Companies who only haul inside Wisconsin generally are not subject to such strict insurance requirements.
There are also specific drunk driving offenses that focus on those who operate a commercial motor vehicle after having consumed alcohol. Operating a commercial motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more is illegal in Wisconsin. A driver who tests at or above that level will receive an immediate 24-hour out-of-service order, in addition to the citation for violating the 0.04 prohibited alcohol concentration law.
What will happen at the administrative hearing?
At the administrative review hearing, only the issues listed on the letter from the Department of Transportation (DOT) giving notice of the hearing will be heard.
If you hire Cohen Law Offices, they will receive that letter giving notice of the hearing and will provide you with a copy of it along with the police reports.
Our attorneys will meet with a hearing examiner from the Department of Transportation to determine if your operating privileges will be suspended during the time of the court proceedings.
Cohen Law Offices will then be notified of the results of that hearing by mail, usually within one (1) day after the hearing occurs.
If you win at that hearing, your operating privileges will not be suspended during the court proceedings. If you lose at that hearing, your operating privileges will be suspended thirty days after the notice date on the Notice of Intent to Suspend and our attorneys will send you a letter with detailed information on how to get an occupational license.
Please note that the results of the administrative review hearing do not affect the outcome of your case in court.
Can I get an occupational license? How?
Probably, but you may have to wait a while first. Wisconsin allows an immediate occupational license after a first offense conviction, but there is a waiting period, which can be from 30 to 90 days in other circumstances. Also, you cannot get an occupational license if you've already lost your license for some other reason in the preceding 365 days. Lastly, you'll have to file proof of insurance with the motor vehicle department to qualify for an occupational license. This is normally done by getting an SR-22 from your insurance agent, and is likely to lead your insurance carrier to raise your rates and possibly reduce your coverage. Driving under an occupational license is limited. Generally, you may drive for work purposes or for "homemaking," but you are limited to not more than 12 hours in a single day and 60 hours in the total week, according to a schedule that is maintained in the DOT files.
An occupational license may be obtained through the Department of Transportation if your driving privileges have been suspended, provided you were valid to drive before you were charged with OWI. Before going to the DOT, you must obtain SR-22 insurance.
You may not obtain an occupational license before your suspension date begins. If your driving privileges were administratively suspended, Cohen Law Offices will send you a letter with detailed information about SR-22 insurance and obtaining an occupational license.
Please note that there may be other factors with respect to your driver's record history that may prohibit you from obtaining an occupational license. For example, the Department of Transportation prohibits a person with two or more suspensions or revocations within a 12-month period from obtaining an occupational license.
When will the OWI conviction be removed from my driving record?
In Wisconsin, a drunk driving conviction is a permanent part of your driving record. Since 1998, Wisconsin has counted all lifetime drunk driving convictions, even those before 1998, in calculating whether a drunk driving arrest should be prosecuted as a third or greater offense. So, unlike other violations, a drunk driving conviction is never purged from your Wisconsin driver record unless it is a first OWI conviction and you have no other OWI convictions.
What kinds of hearings will I have in a criminal case?
In a Wisconsin criminal case, you may encounter the following hearings:
This is the first appearance in a criminal case. At this hearing, the accused is given a copy of the complaint against him and is advised of his right to a lawyer, and bail is set. If the person is charged with a felony, he will be advised of his right to a preliminary hearing. Although unusual, a person may waive his physical presence at the initial appearance and appear by phone or other means.
Preliminary Hearing (Felony Only)
At the "prelim," the prosecution is required to prove they have probable cause to go forward with the criminal charges. A prelim is a very one-sided affair. The judge is required to look just at the evidence the state has, and determine from that alone is enough to lead to the conclusion that the accused probably committed a felony. The accused has a right to question the witnesses, but the judge won't consider their credibility (whether they seem to be lying). The expectation is that in almost every case the court will find probable cause. Once the prelim is completed, the prosecution has 30 days to file an Information, which is a charging document similar to the complaint outlining the charges the defendant must face.
After the court finds probable cause, an information is filed. Like the complaint, the information outlines the charges a person will face. The information does not have to have the same charges as the complaint, but must be consistent with the information presented at the preliminary hearing. At arraignment, the person charged will be once again notified of his right to have an attorney and be offered the option of having the entire Information read in court (most chose not to). Most importantly, the arraignment is when the defendant enters a plea to the charges. Typically, this plea is "not guilty." Even if the defendant wishes to plead guilty to the charges, it is crucial not to do so here, because first it is important to investigate the case and obtain a plea offer from the prosecution.
Between the set of hearings that begin a case (above) and those that end it (last three below) is a series of hearings usually called status conferences? These are informal hearings where the court inquires about the progress of the case and usually wants to know why it is taking so long to resolve
Conditions of release may be revisited anytime there has been a change in a person's circumstances to justify a change. Both monetary and behavioral terms can be changed.
A motion hearing is a hearing where the court hears argument and sometimes evidence (testimony) surrounding a particular issue in a case and issues orders.
A criminal case can only end one of two ways: the accused either is found guilty or acquitted ("not guilty"). The fast track to being found guilty is to plead guilty, usually in exchange for a plea bargain. A guilty plea is an admission to the court that you are guilty of one or more of the criminal charges in the complaint or information.
If a person challenges the state’s charges or evidence, or believes he is not guilty, or simply does not wish to plead guilty for any reason, he goes to trial. Trial is the hearing where the state presents any evidence of guilt it has, and the defendant challenges that evidence and presents his own evidence. The jury listens to all the evidence and then decides in secret whether to find the defendant guilty or not guilty. Note that the criminal case doesn’t ever find you "innocent." Either you can be found guilty, or not guilty, which legally just means the state couldn’t prove you were guilty enough to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Once a person is found or pleads guilty, the court will sentence him. A sentence is meant to serve several purposes. It is supposed to punish the person for his behavior. It is supposed to deter future similar behavior. It is supposed to protect the public. And it is supposed to rehabilitate the offender. Punishment is most commonly jail time. The idea of deterrence is that the punishment and other consequences will scare you into not doing something wrong again, which protect the public by preventing future crime. Rehabilitation is the recognition that almost all criminal behavior is a product of social ills: poverty, poor education, mental illness, addiction to drugs or alcohol, and so on. The rehabilitation process seeks to treat these deficits to help the person learn not to resort to behaviors that society disapproves of. The reality is that the criminal justice system is far too busy to fix the years of problems a person has accumulated, so rehabilitative treatment relies heavily on the offender's motivation to accept treatment. The court examines each person's situation and determines what sentence is the best. For people with limited criminal history, a court is likely to emphasize rehabilitation. For a person with extensive history, punishment and public protection will be the focus.
Federal Student Aid FAQ
Is it true that drug convictions might affect my ability to get federal student aid?
Yes; your eligibility might be suspended if the offense occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, or work-study). When you complete the FAFSA, you will be asked whether you had a drug conviction for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid. If the answer is yes, you will be provided a worksheet to help you determine whether your conviction affects your eligibility for federal student aid.
If your eligibility for federal student aid has been suspended due to a drug conviction, you can regain eligibility early by successfully completing an approved drug rehabilitation program or by passing two unannounced drug tests administered by an approved drug rehabilitation program. If you regain eligibility during the award year, notify your financial aid office immediately so you can get any aid you’re eligible for.
If you are convicted of a drug-related offense after you submit the FAFSA, you might lose eligibility for federal student aid, and you might be liable for returning any financial aid you received during a period of ineligibility.
What other convictions might affect my aid?
If you have been convicted of a forcible or nonforcible sexual offense, and you are subject to an involuntary civil commitment upon completion of a period of incarceration for that offense, you cannot receive a Federal Pell Grant.
If I’m on probation or parole, can I get federal student aid?
Yes; if you are on probation or parole or living in a halfway house, you may be eligible for federal student aid. But remember, if you were convicted of a drug-related offense or if you are subject to an involuntary civil commitment for a sexual offense, your eligibility may be limited.
If I’m incarcerated, can I get federal student aid?
You have limited eligibility for federal student aid.
If you are in a federal or state institution:
- you can’t get a Federal Pell Grant or federal student loans
- you can get a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work-Study (FWS), but you probably won’t because
- priority for FSEOGs must be given to those students who also will receive a Federal Pell Grant (for which you’re not eligible) and because the logistical difficulties of performing an FWS job while incarcerated would likely be too great for you to be awarded FWS funds
If you are in an institution other than a federal or state institution:
- you can’t get federal student loans
- you can get a Federal Pell Grant
- you can get FSEOG and FWS, but you probably won’t because schools are limited in the amount of FSEOG funds available, and because the logistical difficulties of performing an FWS job while incarcerated would likely be too great for you to be awarded FWS funds
For more information: