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The terms operating while intoxicated (“OWI”) and driving while intoxicated (“DUI”) are often used interchangeably. To be charged with an OWI, a vehicle does not necessarily need to be in motion, whereas a DUI implies the person needs to be driving the vehicle. Wisconsin uses the broader OWI terminology in its laws.  

This article answers various questions you may have about OWI/DUI Laws in Wisconsin, including  

  • How long does an OWI/DUI stay on my record?  
  • What happens if I refuse a test at a traffic stop?  
  • Can you get an OWI/DUI on a bike?  
  • Is an OWI/DUI a misdemeanor?  
  • Is an OWI/DUI a felony?  
  • How much is an OWI/DUI?  
  • How likely is jail time?  

To read more about what you need to know about OWI/DUI laws in 2022, please visit our other article.  


How Long Does An OWI/DUI Stay On My Record?

If you have been convicted of DUI/OWI in Wisconsin, these convictions will appear on your criminal record for life. A first-time offense DUI/OWI conviction in Wisconsin will remain on your driving record for ten years. If you receive three or more of these convictions, they will remain on your driving record for life.  


What Happens If I Refuse A Test At A Traffic Stop?

You have a legal right to refuse field sobriety tests, including preliminary breath tests and other attention tests such as walking, turning, or standing on one leg. Your license cannot be revoked because you refused these tests; however, you should be aware that refusing these tests will likely result in you being taken into custody and further evaluated.    

Still, be aware that because of Implied Consent, driving in the state of WI allows state and police officers the right to test you if they have probable cause chemically. If you refuse this chemical testing, you could get your license revoked.  

Can You Get An OWI/DUI On A Bike?

The simple answer is NO! Wisconsin OWI Laws state that no person may drive or operate a motor vehicle while under the influence. Bicycles are not motor vehicles. However, driving a motorized bike or moped under the influence could get you a DUI as these types of bikes may be deemed motor vehicles and be subject to Wiscon DUI laws.  

You could still be found guilty of a Class F felony charge for injuring someone while riding a bicycle while under the influence. This carries a sentence of 12.5 years maximum in prison and a $25,000 fine.  


Is An OWI/DUI A Misdemeanor?

Typically, operating a motor vehicle in Wisconsin while intoxicated is considered a traffic violation or a misdemeanor for a first-time offense. This would be different, though, if a minor was in the vehicle or if someone was injured while you were driving intoxicated.  


Is An OWI/DUI A Felony?

A DUI is a felony if you are on your fourth OWI within five years or if you have more than five OWI convictions within your lifetime.  

Additionally, if you are involved in a car crash while under the influence and great bodily harm or even death occurs, you can face felony charges.  


How Much Is An OWI/DUI?  

The amount you will pay in fines depends on the number of prior OWI/DUI offenses you have been convicted of. These are the amounts you could be ordered to pay:  

1st offense – $150-$300 in fines  

2nd offense – $350-$1,100 in fines  

3rd offense – $600-$2,000 in fines  

4th offense – $600-$10,000 in fines  

5th offense – $600-$25,000 in fines  

There are many other costs/fees that result from an OWI/DUI conviction. Some additional costs can include  

  • Alcohol and Other Drug Assessment ~$250  
  • Driver Improvement Surcharge ~$435  
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device ~$1,000  
  • SR-22 High-Risk Auto Insurance ~$95-$200 per month  

(all of these are estimates, and prices can change at any point or can depend on your location). Not to mention attorney’s fees, court costs, vehicle impound fees, etc.  

How Likely Is Jail Time?

Wisconsin OWI/DUI convictions have minimum and maximum penalties based on the number of prior offenses within the last ten years.  

1st offense – no jail time  

2nd offense – 5 days to 6 months jail time  

3rd offense – 45 days to 1 year jail time  

4th offense – 60 days to 6 years jail time  

More than five offenses – 3 to 15 years jail time  

These are the general penalties if no injury occurred and no minors were in the vehicle. If a minor under the age of 16 was in the car, the jail time could double. If the court finds aggravating factors, the penalties for an OWI/DUI can be higher. Also, charges that stem from great bodily harm or death as a result of intoxicated driving can result in a sentence of up to 12.5 years for causing injury and up to 25 years for homicide.  

Depending on the situation, other criminal laws may apply as well. If you have more questions about charges being brought against you, don't hesitate to get in touch with a Wisconsin defense attorney.  


If you want to know more about your rights or need counsel for an OWI/DUI charge in Wisconsin, please reach out to us. To request a consultation with a Wisconsin Traffic Attorney of O’Flaherty Law, call our office at (630) 324-6666, or you can also fill out our confidential contact form, and we will get back to you shortly.  

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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