Operating While Intoxicated, whether it’s your first or seventh, whether it’s based on alcohol or drugs, no matter what you’re driving or what kind of license you have, involves the same core set of elements.
As simple as it sounds, it gets a lot more complicated from there.
Check these topics for more information:
What does “Operate” mean?
What is a “Motor Vehicle”?
What counts as a “Highway”?
What does “Under the Influence” mean?
What does “Prohibited Blood Alcohol Concentration” mean?
Proving someone “drove” is easy enough to understand. It means your vehicle moves, no matter how slow. But what does “Operate” mean?
The law defines “operating” as the “physical manipulation or activation of any of the controls of a motor vehicle necessary to put it in motion.” That’s more words, but it doesn’t really answer the question.
Plain English. You can be arrested and successfully prosecuted in Wisconsin for “operating” while impaired for sure if your engine is running, even if the car is in park and you are asleep trying to sober up. (Remember though you have to be on a highway, too.) You will also be in trouble, most likely, if you do any of the things you would normally do to start a vehicle, such as put the keys in the ignition, turn on the electrical, take the car out of park, maybe even turn on the headlights. Even if it is not your intent, these are all parts of what you do to start up a vehicle to prepare it for motion.
The law doesn’t want you even to get behind the wheel.
Any self-propelled device by which a person my be transported on a highway. It includes cars, trucks, vans and motorcycles, motorized scooters, trolleys and buses that operate on overhead electric wires, as long as they are not on rails. Snowmobiles and Boats have their own statutes.
Not included are trains, electric wheel chairs, bicycles, and animal drawn vehicles.
Any “official” roadway in the state that you might drive on would count as a highway. Also counting are “premises held out to the public for motor vehicle usage,” which includes things like business parking lots, parking lots at work, and parking lots at an apartment complex, unless there are four or fewer units. Drive ways or single family farms are not included.
Under the Influence means impaired by alcohol or other intoxicant or controlled substance. It does not mean extremely impaired or totally impaired or badly impaired or even materially impaired (unless there is an accident involving injury or death). Just impaired. A safe rule of thumb to use is the billboard you may have seen: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving. That may not be the actual legal standard, but if you follow that rule you will stay out of trouble. If your case involves a combination of alcohol and drugs, or a combination of different drugs, under the influence means any impairment by intoxicating chemicals that prevents a person from driving safely.
Under the Influence includes being influenced by alcohol, any other intoxicant (like sniffing paint), a controlled substance or its “analog” (the chemicals it turns into inside your body), or any combination of these. Many narcotic prescription drugs are “controlled substances” so yes, when the bottle says don’t operate heavy machinery, pay attention.
For most drivers, it means 0.08% of alcohol by weight in the blood or 0.08 grams of alcohol in 210 liters of breath. For drivers with more than 3 convictions, the figure is 0.02. Commercial drivers are over the limit at 0.04. (There are also other commercial driver laws that prohibit having anything to drink within 4 hours of driving or having a blood alcohol percent over 0.00.)