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Oh, WY me?

Wyoming: It’s dead-last in the nation in terms of population size, but number one in terms of what national parks come to mind in a game of categories. In spite of this state’s relative worthlessness if you’re one of those people who likes to get lost in a crowd, it’s actually home to some stunning nature preserves—and yes, that was Yellowstone, for those of you still mulling over your answer – a rich history of female firsts in politics, and a plethora of fossilized wagon wheel ruts all across the land.

As you can probably guess, this isn’t really an article about all the incredible things you never knew about the state of Wyoming; it’s about DUI’s. Or, as they’re fondly referred to in the Cowboy State: DWUI’s, or, Driving While Under the Influence. (There ain’t a whole lot of people living out there, so they can afford to spend more time pronouncing acronyms.) “Well,” you might be thinking, “with such a small population, can they really care that much about things like drinking and driving?” The short answer is no…not really.

A cowboy never forgets

While Wyoming does in fact shy away from the harshest of the harsh possible punishments for intoxicate driving, its lawmakers can’t exactly be called lax either. So how does one discern a particular state’s attitude towards drunk driving? Refer to its lookback period – or, the amount of time that matters when considering harsher penalties for repeat DWUI offenders. In Wyoming, the lookback period is 10 years. That’s pretty unforgiving, especially if you’re not actually out boozin’ and cruisin’ every night. Maybe you just like to kick back and have a little too much fun sometimes. Well, as it turns out, it doesn’t matter how sporadic your raucous adventures really are. Busted means busted, and in the eye of the law a repeat offender does not a pretty picture make.

Before we go any further, let’s consider: What’s actually against the law? In Wyoming, the laws governing illegal BAC’s aren’t anything revolutionary. You’re considered to be on thin constitutional ice if you have a blood alcohol content of:

  • .08% or higher if you’re at least 21 years of age. However, you can still be arrested with a BAC under the legal limit if you’re showing signs of inebriation behind the wheel.
  • .04% or higher if you’re at least 21 years of age and hold a commercial driver’s license (a CDL.)
  • .02% or higher if you’re under the age of 21…no matter what.

In addition, those found operating with BAC’s at least twice the legal limit – AKA 0.16% or higher – are typically subject to much harsher punishments, most noticeably upon one’s first offense. That’s right; it may be the first time you got caught, but if you’ve really fucked up, you can bet they’re gonna hit you where it hurts.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Getting strapped with a DWUI charge in the state of Wyoming can land you the curse of immobility (read: license forfeiture), hefty fines, and an ugly stain upon your reputation if it’s not handled in savvy manner. That’s why it’s important to approach any such situation armed with experienced legal aid if you’re interested in A) understanding your predicament in its entirety, and B) wrapping things up in the cleanest way possible. Some of you may still be curious about those worst-case scenarios – which is understandable. After all, why even fight the good fight if you’re not sure how badly off you’ll you be if you don’t? Read on for a lowdown of what might happen.

  • First offense:
    • A fine as high as $750…
    • …or jail time for as many as 6 full months. Or both, if you’re just super unlucky. Keep in mind that there is no mandatory minimum jail sentence for a first offense.
    • License suspension for a minimum of 90 days. With a first offense, you may apply for a probationary license before the set suspension period has run its course.
    • The installation of an ignition interlock device (an IID) is only required upon license reinstatement if you had a BAC of 0.15% or higher.
    • A substance abuse assessment, and potential court-ordered treatment.
  • Second offense: Remember, the following penalties are only in full effect if it’s your second offense within 10 years.
    • A fine somewhere between $250 and $750.
    • At least 7 days – and up to 6 months – behind bars.
    • License suspension for one full year (with no possibility of a probationary license.)
    • The mandatory installation and maintenance of an IID for one full year following conviction.
    • A substance abuse assessment and subsequent treatment.
  • Third offense:
    • A fine somewhere between $750 and $3,000.
    • One to 6 months behind bars.
    • License suspension for 3 full years.
    • Installation and maintenance of an IID for at least a year following conviction; the exact length of time is determined by the court.
    • A substance abuse assessment and subsequent treatment.
  • Fourth offense:
    • A fine as high as $10,000.
    • Up to two years behind bars.
    • License suspension for at least 3 years; the exact length of time is determined by the court.
    • Installation and maintenance of an IID for life.
    • A substance abuse assessment and subsequent treatment.

But wait…I have rights!

Let’s just say you’ve been stopped under suspicion of drunk driving and – surprise! – you blew a zero-point-illegal. Well, shit. Are you a bad person? Is it time to lay low and never leave your house until you’ve been tried, found guilty, and thrown in a jail cell? Fortunately, that’s not how things have to work. In fact, you don’t even have to give up your license until you’re proven guilty – that is, if you act fast. You have exactly 20 days from your arrest to contest your automatically-suspended license and barter for a chance to retain it. Turns out, those things are pretty useful.

So yes: You have rights. You have a right to defend yourself, you have a right to not immediately plead guilty, and you have a right to a legal counsel. (The quality of said legal counsel, of course, depends on your care in selecting a good one.)

But don’t get a big head; probable cause is probable cause. What do we mean by that? What we mean is this: If an arresting officer determines that your weaving/speeding/otherwise sketchy behind-the-wheel behavior might be due to some illicit substance, it’s understood that you, as a driver, provide implied consent to provide a chemical sample. This means that while it’s technically within your rights to decline a chemical test, you will be penalized if you choose to do so.

Wyoming isn’t quite as hardcore as other states – as in, they won’t confiscate your vehicle – but you could face mandatory IID installation, and you’ll definitely be facing license suspension. You’ll lose it for 90 days the first time, one year the second, and three years the third. Also if you get to that last point, you may want to think up a different plan of action. Like maybe don’t drink and drive, and do what kids do nowadays to get around: Uber.

Never fear…BernieSez is here!

The oh-so-bleak start to any DWUI scenario can instantly be made better with a little legal reinforcement. And in Wyoming, an experienced attorney can not only provide invaluable insight into your unique situation but can potentially lessen the impact of your sentencing significantly. That’s because WY law doesn’t prohibit the reduction of DWUI charges to lesser criminal offenses – something that’s straight-up banned in some states. You’ll quickly find that having a reputable attorney on your side can be very helpful in determining all the possible outcomes associated with your particular case – and in examining the events which led up to your arrest. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you need a little help! Getting in trouble with the law can undoubtedly be a nasty business – but no one ever said you have to do it alone.