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Mistake by police not grounds for overturning OWI conviction

Most states have strict laws in place for those who operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. A driver in Wisconsin may be pulled over and arrested for OWI if he or she appears to be drunk while driving, or if the officer can smell or see alcohol during a traffic stop. Sobriety tests and blood alcohol levels may also be used as further evidence to support the arrest.

A Wisconsin man who was previously convicted of OWI was recently denied his appeal to have the conviction overturned. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled that the conviction would stand, regardless of the mistake made by the law enforcement officer during the original stop. The man filed his appeal with the reasoning that the officer had no reason to stop him in the first place.

The man was arrested for the OWI after being asked to take a sobriety test when the law enforcement officer smelled alcohol. The officer was in the process of apologizing for pulling the man over; he had made a mistake when running a check on the man's license plate number and believed that the plates were expired. The appeals court ruled that the officer had made an honest mistake and therefore had a reason to stop the man.

Every person living in Wisconsin is given certain rights to protect them, and all too often authorities make mistakes that result in arrests and convictions of those who appear to be violating the law. Although the court upheld the decision in this particular case, any person who feels their rights may have been violated by a police mistake may benefit from consulting an attorney.

Source: WISBAR News, "Appeals Court Upholds OWI Conviction Despite Police Mistake," Joe Forward, April 4, 2013

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