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Can I face DUI charges while operating on private property?

Wisconsin residents may own private property but often leave that property when they go to their jobs, restaurants and stores. When they pull out of their driveways and onto local roads and highways, they are generally entering public land. Questions often arise as to whether a driver can face drunk driving charges if he is operating on private property.

According to Wisconsin law, drunk driving and reckless driving charges can attach to related illegal conduct that occurs on highways or on premises that apparently allow public use for driving. Highways are public and are maintained by municipalities. Premises that may fall into the latter category may either be public or private.

For example, a private citizen may have a long driveway that he does not allow anyone to use for public purposes. In that case the driveway would likely not be considered a premise that allows for public use. However, a private business owner may have a large parking lot that he allows the public to use when visiting his store, and in such a case a court may determine that the property meets the legislative standard of allowing for public use for driving.

The examples provided in this post are for illustrative purposes only and should not be read as specific legal advice. Every situation is different and individuals with factual questions about how Wisconsin DUI law applies to them should seek out specific legal information about their unique cases.

In some cases a person could possibly face a DUI charge while operating on private property. However, in many situations DUI charges arise from alleged illegal conduct that occurs on publicly maintained roads. The facts of a case will determine how the law applies to the individual charged with a crime.

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Melowski & Associates, LLC
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Sheboygan, WI 53081

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