Interviewer: Will my OWI trial be before a jury? Before a judge? Why or why not?

Nathan:  That comes down to the way that our legal system in the state of Wisconsin plays out.

A first offense is a traffic ticket, a civil forfeiture. You are not entitled to a jury trial, but you do have the opportunity to pay for a jury trial for a first offense. There are a lot of considerations that go into the decision to put a first offense in front of a jury, instead of just having a judge or court trial.

Different Offenses Results in Different Trials

However, any second or subsequent offense, within ten years of a first offense will be a crime. That would go before a judge and a jury.

Interviewer:  What if there’s no jury available for my trial? Does this affect the outcome of my case?

Nathan:  No, it would be a decision that we would talk about and you would have to make.

Like I said before, there are a lot of considerations that go into whether or not ‑‑ with a first offense, because that’s the only place that this applies ‑‑ that you would either want a jury trial or you would not want a jury trial. One of the big considerations for whether or not you’re going to want to have a jury trial for a first offense is how visible do you want to make the fact that you got an OWI?

The Results of Wisconsin’s Circuit Court System

If you’re going to have a jury trial in the state of Wisconsin, it has to go through our court system, our county court system. Our county court system has what’s called circuit court access, which means that on the Internet, anyone, within four clicks, can figure out that you’ve been charged with an OWI and the status of your case.

That has a potentially significant impact on employers, as well as graduates. Sometimes, you want to refrain from immediately asking for a jury trial because if it’s not a good case to try, you want to keep it as hidden as possible.