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OWI in Wisconsin

DWI in Wisconsin

Operating while intoxicated or OWI is a serious offense in Wisconsin. Other states refer to the same charge as driving while intoxicated (DWI) or more commonly driving under the influence (DUI). Regardless of the name, common OWI penalties can include:

  • High fines
  • Jail time
  • Higher insurance rates
  • Mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device

If you have been arrested for OWI in Wisconsin, it is important to contact an OWI or DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Wisconsin OWI laws require drivers to challenge their impending license suspension with in a specified time period or they will lose their right to do so.

OWI/DUI in Wisconsin
Wisconsin laws prohibit driving under the influence, which in Wisconsin is more commonly called "operating while impaired." A person does not have to be "driving" their car. The law states a driver only has to be engaged in "the physical manipulation or activation of any of the controls of a motor vehicle necessary to put it in motion."

Wisconsin law also prohibits a driver from operating a motor vehicle with a "prohibited alcohol concentration" or PAC. The legal limit for intoxication in Wisconsin is 0.08%. A driver does not have to be exhibiting any impairment to be arrested for an OWI if their BAC is over the legal limit. Wisconsin OWI law also prohibits a driver, who has been arrested 3 times for OWI, to drive with a BAC of 0.02% or higher. This basically means that drivers who have had three OWI convictions can not legally drive after consuming a 12 ounce bottle of beer.

It is also illegal for Wisconsin drivers to operate a motor vehicle if they have a "detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in their blood."

Penalties for OWI in Wisconsin

First OWI Offense

  • Required to pay a fine of $150 to $300
  • Potential license suspension for 6 to 9 months, under some conditions the courts may allow an occupational license
  • Required purchase of SR22 Insurance coverage
  • Mandatory alcohol assessment
  • Possible community service required

Second OWI Offense

  • Required to pay a fine of $350 to $1,100
  • Required jail time from 5 days to 6 months
  • License suspension for 12 to 18 months, the courts may allow an occupational license after 60 days, if the driver has had a OWI with in 5 years the court will not issue an occupation license until after 12 months
  • Required purchase of SR22 Insurance for an occupational license
  • Potential community service
  • Mandatory alcohol assessment
  • The court may require an Ignition Interlock Device to be installed or immobilize the vehicle

Third OWI Offense

  • Required to pay a fine of $600 to $2,000
  • Required jail time from 30 days to 1 year
  • License suspension for 2 to 3 years, the courts may allow an occupational license after 90 days, if the driver has had 2 OWI convictions with in 5 years the court will not issue an occupational license
  • Required purchase of SR22 Insurance coverage for an occupational license
  • Mandatory alcohol assessment
  • The court may require an Ignition Interlock Device to be installed, immobilize the vehicle or seize the vehicle
  • Possible community service

Fourth OWI Offense

  • Required to pay a fine of $600 to $2,000
  • Required jail time from 60 days up to 5 years
  • License suspension for 2 to 3 years, the courts may allow an occupational license after 90 days, if the driver has had 2 OWI convictions with in 5 years the court will not issue an occupational license
  • Required purchase of SR22 Insurance for an occupational license
  • Mandatory alcohol assessment
  • The court may require an Ignition Interlock Device to be installed, immobilize the vehicle or seize the vehicle
  • Potential community service

When can a police officer stop me?
A police officer does not have to suspect a driver is under the influence to stop them. Police officers can stop a driver for any violation of a Wisconsin traffic law or if another driver has placed a call to them notifying them of a suspicious driver. Common behaviors which Wisconsin police officers may look for can include:

  • Weaving across lane lines
  • Turning with a wide radius
  • Drifting
  • Almost striking a vehicle or other object
  • Driving too slowly

After a traffic stop, a police officer can gather additional evidence of intoxication by performing a field sobriety test.

Refusing a chemical test
A driver can refuse to take a chemical test but Wisconsin OWI laws require their driver's license to be suspended for 1 year. They also will not be issued an occupational license for up to 30 days. If the driver agrees to the chemical test they will only have their license suspended for 6 to 9 months. Whether or not the driver should agree to the chemical test can depend on the number of prior convictions they have had and whether or not they have caused another person injury or death.