Learning the System Part II of II
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has ruled that a failure to appear in court as ordered by a judge on a charge of operating while intoxicated resulting in a warrant issued by a judge for the offender’s arrest is, in fact, a conviction for that offense and can be used as a prior conviction for repeat offense purposes. The defendant failed to appear in court as ordered after her arrest in Arizona and also after her arrest in California for operating while intoxicated. A warrant was issued for her arrest in both states. Although she was not “convicted” in either Arizona or California from her arrests, her failure to appear in court as ordered in those states provided the basis for the prosecution in Wisconsin to charge her with an OWI (5th) offense, even though she had only 2 prior “convictions” on her Wisconsin driving and criminal record for operating while intoxicated. A very technical reading by the Court of Appeals of the definition of “conviction” under Wisconsin Statutes permits this type of prosecution. It seems inconsistent and harsh that a bench warrant, or even a violation of bail, can count as a prior “conviction” when the offender did not enter a plea of guilty or no contest to the underlying offense or was found guilty by a jury after trial.