Great Bodily Harm OWI Avoids Felony Conviction
This case is another example of why hiring an attorney as soon as possible in a case, even before a charged is issued, can be critical to the outcome. About one year ago, our client was involved in a terrible crash. The other driver was significantly injured, suffering a broken back, which has never completely healed. At the time of the crash, our client had a reported alcohol concentration that was in excess of 0.21 percent. Only days after the incident, the client hired Chirafisi & Verhoff, based on a recommendation from another lawyer in Madison. Attorney Verhoff immediately contacted the prosecution and began negotiating the case. Through his efforts, the prosecution agreed to forego charging a felony; instead, filing a misdemeanor charge of OWI causing injury. The client later entered a plea and was convicted. Because Attorney Verhoff was not able to reach a negotiated settlement for sentence, the parties argued to the judge what they thought the appropriate sentence should be. Going into the hearing, Attorney Verhoff believed the prosecutor was likely to argue the significant injury and a high alcohol concentration merited a lengthy jail sentence. Attorney Verhoff knew he would have to counter these powerful, emotionally-charged arguments. Prior to sentencing, he prepared and filed an extensive memorandum that provided the judge information about the client, including records to document the client's extensive alcohol treatment after the crash, her voluntary use of a sobrietor while the case was pending, her participation in alcohol awareness programs, her volunteer efforts in her community, and many character references describing her qualities as a person. After reading our sentencing memorandum, the prosecutor indicated he still planned to ask for a lengthy sentence. However, he decided to recommend a sentence that was five months less than originally planned. The parties appeared at the sentencing hearing and the prosecution recommended six months in jail. Attorney Verhoff recommended half that amount. In the end, the judge agreed with Attorney Verhoff and sentenced the client to 90 days in jail. Although ultimately convicted of a criminal offense, the client avoided a felony on her record and received a sentence that was approximately nine months less than the prosecution originally demanded at the beginning of the case.