The holiday season is a time for celebration and spending quality time with loved ones. However, it is also a time when alcohol consumption tends to increase at parties and gatherings and in other situations. With this increase in drinking, more people may attempt to drive when they are intoxicated. Because of this, the number of arrests for OWI (operating while intoxicated) tends to increase during the holidays. If you have been arrested for drunk driving, an experienced attorney can provide you with legal representation and help you determine your best options for defense.

Holiday Festivities and Alcohol Consumption

During the holiday season, many people indulge in alcoholic beverages as part of their celebrations. From office parties to family gatherings, alcohol often takes center stage. Unfortunately, this heightened drinking can lead some people to make poor decisions, such as getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

Data from law enforcement agencies and studies have consistently shown an uptick in drunk driving incidents during these festive times. According to the Wisconsin State Patrol, there are around 400 car accidents involving drunk drivers during the holiday season each year. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has also reported that there were nearly 23,000 OWI convictions in the state in 2022, with a significant percentage of arrests occurring during holidays throughout the year.

Factors Contributing to Increased OWIs During the Holiday Season

There are multiple reasons why more people tend to drink during the season spanning from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, including:

  • Increased alcohol availability: During the holiday season, alcohol is easily accessible due to an abundance of parties, special promotions at bars and restaurants, and events where people may be encouraged to drink more than they usually would. When a person is out drinking at a bar, restaurant, someone else’s home, or another location, they may be unsure how to get home safely, and they may choose to drive rather than finding alternative transportation arrangements.

  • Social pressure: Many holiday events involve socializing with friends and family, often at parties or gatherings where alcohol is readily available. Peer pressure and the desire to fit in can play a role in people making poor decisions, including the belief that it may be safe to drive if they have just had a few drinks.

  • Stress and depression: While the holidays are generally portrayed as joyful times filled with love and laughter, for some people, this season can be a stressful or lonely time. The added stressors on mental health can sometimes lead people to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. This may increase the likelihood of intoxicated driving.

  • A perception of lax enforcement: Law enforcement resources may seem to be strained during the holidays due to factors such as increased call volumes or officers being required to perform duties like crowd control at parades and festivals. Because of this, people may believe that there will be decreased patrols on the roads, allowing them to avoid arrests for drunk driving. However, because of the increased potential for intoxicated driving during the holidays, police often increase patrols and pull over any drivers who may seem to be driving erratically or exhibiting signs of intoxication.

The Legal Consequences of an OWI Arrest

In Wisconsin, getting arrested for operating while intoxicated (OWI) carries severe legal consequences. The penalties of an OWI conviction include:

  • Large fines, even for first offenses

  • Driver’s license revocation

  • Requirement to use an ignition interlock device or participate in a 24/7 sobriety program for one year or more

  • Possible jail time

If you have been arrested for OWI during the holiday season in Wisconsin, it is crucial to contact a lawyer right away and make sure you have legal representation as you defend against criminal charges.