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Explaining Wisconsin's 'prohibited alcohol concentration' charge

Earlier this month, a Wisconsin man was arrested and charged after an alleged drunk driving incident. Police say the man had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.25 percent, which is more than three times the legal limit.

The man allegedly drove 5.3 miles in the wrong direction down I-43 in Milwaukee. According to police, he nearly collided head-on with another vehicle. The other driver swerved and struck a median wall in order to avoid the oncoming car. The defendant was soon stopped and apprehended by a Milwaukee County Sherriff's deputy.

The man has been charged with second-degree recklessly endangering safety, as well as two other charges which we will discuss in greater detail today. Those charges include operating while intoxicated (OWI) and operating a motor vehicle with a prohibited blood alcohol concentration (PAC).

Wisconsin residents already know about OWI charges, often just called "driving drunk." However, not many people know about the separate PAC charge that often accompanies an OWI charge.

An OWI charge is determined by blood, breath or urine test results. That is, if any of these tests show that the defendant's BAC is above 0.08 percent, that person can be charged with OWI.

Simultaneously, police will often issue a Prohibited Alcohol Concentration charge. When a defendant has a BAC at or above 0.08 percent, those test results are used as evidence that the person was driving with a BAC that is prohibited in Wisconsin.

This essentially means that police can issue an additional charge for the same crime. It may not be fair, but it is the law. While many people are unaware of the additional PAC charge, law enforcement does not hesitate to use it. What you don't know can still hurt you.

Source: Journal-Sentinel online, "West Allis man accused of driving wrong way on I-43," Jesse Garza, 22 July 2011

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