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In this article we explore the latest changes to Wisconsin's driving under the influence laws (DUI) (or OWI for "operating while intoxicated" as it is more commonly referred to in Wisconsin).

In this article we explore the latest changes to Wisconsin's driving under the influence laws (DUI) (or OWI for "operating while intoxicated" as it is more commonly referred to in Wisconsin). Understanding the complexities of Wisconsin’s laws can be complicated and confusing, especially under the stress of a recent charge.

To make these laws simple and straightforward, we have broken down the common DUI laws in Wisconsin in plain language below, along with the potential penalties associated with them. In addition, other charges may accompany an OWI arrest. See our related article here.

If you or a loved one has been charged a DUI/OWI-related charge in Wisconsin, it is critical to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to explain the specific circumstances of your situation and get expert help.

Wisconsin's DUI Laws

Under Wisconsin law, you may be considered to be operating while under the influence of an intoxicant if you are operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more, or are impaired as a result of ingesting controlled substances.

However, even if your BAC is under 0.08 percent, you may still be considered to be under the influence if police observe your driving to be affected by drugs or alcohol.

Receiving DUI charge can be an intimidating, stressful experience with serious consequences. Both first-time offenders and repeat offenders face mandatory fines and penalties if convicted, and put their employment prospects, housing, and personal credit in jeopardy. Additionally, there are a host of related penalties that may also be implicated if you are charged with an OWI in Wisconsin.

See below for a simple list of Wisconsin DUI laws and associated penalties.

First Offense DUI in Wisconsin

 Monetary fines or forfeiture ranging from $150-$300, surcharges and driver's license revocation for up to 9 months. Despite the commonly-held idea that a person's first drunk driving offense isn't a "big deal," it can bring life-changing consequences, not all of which may be apparent at first. What is more, very few people realize that they can be convicted even if they were driving within the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit. If the court determines a driver was "incapable of safely driving," while under the influence of any amount of alcohol, the penalties are the same.

Penalties for a First Offense OWI in Wisconsin

Your first offense OWI in Wisconsin is a civil offense and can bring the following penalties:

  • Driver's license suspension (six to nine months)
  • A fine between $150 and $300
  • An additional $365 OWI surcharge
  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID) requirements if over a certain BAC level
  • Mandatory Alcohol and Other Drug Assessment (AODA)
  • Occupational license allowed for eligible drivers (IID required) 
  • Higher insurance rates and SR22 verification if given high-risk driver status

In addition to the penalties listed above, you will likely need to pay an additional OWI suspension reinstatement fee of $200 when you reapply for a new driver's or occupational license.

All of these penalties increase significantly—usually double—for those who were pulled over with a minor under the age of 16 in the car.

Answers to Common Questions About First Offense OWI in Wisconsin

"How long will my first offense OWI conviction stay on my record?"

In Wisconsin, this can stay on your record forever. The best way to protect your record and is with the help of an experienced drunk driving attorney.  

"How long will an OWI conviction in Wisconsin affect my car insurance rates?"

In Wisconsin, you are required to maintain an SR22 for at least three years after your OWI conviction, and you will likely pay higher insurance rates for five years after your conviction.

 

Second Offense DUI in Wisconsin

 Possible jail time (up to 6 months), significant monetary fines of $150 to $1,100, and up to 6 months confinement and surcharges, and mandatory driver’s license revocation for at least 12 months. The Penalties of Second Offense OWI in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, an OWI is considered a second offense if the driver has been convicted of OWI once in the last ten years. While Wisconsin's laws dictate the minimum and maximum penalties of a second offense OWI conviction, it is ultimately up to a judge to determine a sentence within these ranges:

  • Jail time: Five days to six months in jail. This range is doubled if a passenger under 16 was present in vehicle at the time of the offense. A judge can also judge allow the driver to serve 30 days community service in lieu of the mandatory five days in jail.
  • Fines: A second offense OWI conviction generally carries a fine of $350 to $1,100. This minimum and maximum doubles with a BAC of .17% to .199%. It triples for a BAC of .20% to .249%. It quadruples for a BAC of .25% or higher.
  • Substance abuse treatment: All OWI convictions carry a mandatory substance abuse assessment from an approved evaluation facility within the county where one lives within 72 hours of the conviction. A driver safety plan will be created based on the assessment results and may require the driver to complete treatment, OWI classes, or other rehabilitation programs.
  • Driver’s license suspension and revocation: If a blood, breath, or urine sample shows a prohibited BAC or drug content, the driver’s license will be suspended for six months. This time is increased for refusal to participate in BAC testing. If convicted of an OWI in court, the judge will also order the driver’s license be revoked for 12 to 18 months. This runs concurrently (overlaps) with the test failure suspension. The license revocation period will double if an offender had passenger under 16 years old in the car at the time of the offense.
  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID): Upon reinstating the offender's driver's license or granting a hardship license after serving 45 days of the license suspension/revocation or reinstated license, the judge will order an ignition interlock device (IID) be installed and used for at least one year. This can cost at least $1,000 for a year of service per vehicle, and must be installed on any titled or registered vehicle you operate within that time period.

Other Consequences of Second Offense OWI in Wisconsin

In addition to the legal penalties, there are a number of other consequences for those convicted of their 2nd OWI in Wisconsin. These include the cost of alcohol and drug assessment and the subsequent driver safety plan (which can cost over $1,000), hundreds of dollars for an occupational license and in reapplication fees, mandatory SR22 high-risk auto insurance costs as well as higher life insurance and health insurance rates, time off work, impound fees, and more.

Taken together, these costs can total many thousands of dollars, making it critically important to retain an experienced attorney who can help you reduce your sentence or avoid conviction altogether.

 

Third Offense DUI in Wisconsin

Possible felony charges. Fine or forfeiture ranging from $600-$4,000 and 45 days to 2 year confinement in jail/prison. The Penalties of a 3rd OWI in Wisconsin In Wisconsin, an OWI is considered a third offense if the driver has been convicted of two previous OWI offenses anytime throughout their life. While Wisconsin's laws dictate the minimum and maximum penalties of a second offense OWI conviction, it is ultimately up to a judge to determine a sentence within the legal ranges:

  • Jail time: 45 days to one year in jail if BAC is below 0.17. This range is doubled if BAC is .17 to .199. This range is tripled if BAC is .20 to .2499 and quadrupled if BAC is .25 or higher. Having a passenger under 16 in the car at the time of arrest doubles these ranges.
  • Fines: $600-$2,000 and a $435 driver improvement surcharge. If a passenger under 16 years old was in the vehicle at the time of the arrest fines range from $1,200-$4,000 in plus surcharges.
  • Driver’s license suspension and revocation: Two to three years. If there was a passenger under the age of 16 in the car at the time of your arrest, your license could be revoked immediately for up to six years. 45 days after any conviction of a third offense OWI you may be eligible to apply for an occupational license. Before that, there is no eligibility for an occupational license.
  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID): Installation for one to three years if BAC is below 0.17. This doubles if BAC is .17 to .199, triples if BAC is .20 to .2499, and quadruples if BAC is .25 or higher.

Other Consequences of 3rd Offense OWI in Wisconsin

In addition to the legal penalties, there are a number of other consequences for those convicted of their 2nd OWI in Wisconsin. These include the cost of alcohol and drug assessment and the subsequent driver safety plan (which can cost over $1,000), hundreds of dollars for an occupational license and in reapplication fees, mandatory SR22 high-risk auto insurance costs as well as higher life insurance and health insurance rates, time off work, impound fees, and more.

Taken together, these costs can total many thousands of dollars, making it critically important to retain an experienced attorney who can help you reduce your sentence or avoid conviction altogether.  

Fourth Offense DUI in Wisconsin

 Class H Felony: Automatic $600-minimum fine and automatic 60-day jail sentence. Maximum penalties are consistent with a Class H felony (fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to six years in prison). Updated Dec. 1, 2018

Fifth & Sixth Offense DUI in Wisconsin

 Class G Felony: Minimum, mandatory fine: Not be less than $600 and as much as $25,000. Minimum of 6 months in jail, maximum of 10 years in prison, plus other fees and surcharges, 2-3 years driver’s license revocation, 1-3 years required ignition interlock device in vehicle.

Next Steps if You've Been Charged with DUI in Wisconsin

If you are facing OWI, DWI, DUI, BAC or PAC charges in Wisconsin, you should contact a skilled criminal defense attorney to assist in your defense as soon as possible.  

What to Expect From a Consultation

The purpose of a free consultation is to determine whether our firm is a good fit for your legal needs. Although we often discuss expected results and costs, our attorneys do not give legal advice unless and until you choose to retain us. Although most consultations are complimentary, some may carry a charge depending on the type of matter and meeting location.

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What to Expect From a Consultation

The purpose of a free consultation is to determine whether our firm is a good fit for your legal needs. Although we often discuss expected results and costs, our attorneys do not give legal advice unless and until you choose to retain us. Although most consultations are complimentary, some may carry a charge depending on the type of matter and meeting location.

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