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Penalties For Drunk Driving in Wisconsin


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While most states use the terms DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DUI (driving under the influence), Wisconsin law uses the term OWI (operating while intoxicated. ) The laws are basically the same as in other US states, ours just prefers a different terminology.

Wisconsin law divides its OWI penalties into three different categories depending on the person being accused. Underage drivers and commercial drivers (truck drivers, deliveries, etc) face harsher penalties than the average adult driving under the influence. Let's look at those penalties in more detail.

General OWI Penalties

For a first time OWI offense (driving with blood alcohol content above .08), the penalty is a fine between $150 and $300 and a six to nine month suspension of the driver's license. However, the convicted person is immediately eligible for an occupational license, which will allow him or her to drive to work or school, but only those and other necessary locations.

The penalties become harsher with each following OWI conviction. After a person's second OWI conviction, their vehicle may be immobilized or equipped with an Ignition Interlock Device that will not allow the person to drive without passing a breathalyzer test. By the time a person reaches his or her fifth OWI offense, the penalties can be quite severe: a $10,000 fine, up to a year in jail, revocation of their license for up three years, seizure of their vehicle, and a wait period of up to a year before they can request an occupational license.

The penalties for causing injury while driving drunk depend on severity. A person might be convicted of causing injury while OWI, causing great bodily harm by OWI, or homicide by OWI. The penalties for causing injury can include up to a year in jail, suspension of driver's license for up to two years, a $25,000 fine and more. Naturally, the penalties become harsher as the injuries become more severe. A person convicted of homicide while driving drunk faces up to 25 years in jail - or 40 years, if he or she has a prior OWI conviction.

Underage OWI Penalties

Wisconsin observes a “not a drop" law, making it illegal for a person under 21 to drive with after consuming any amount of alcohol at all. A first time conviction under this law can mean a $200 fine and a suspension of license for up to three months, also the person can request an occupational license immediately.

Commercial Driver OWI Penalties

Commercial drivers are held to strict standards when driving safety is concerned. They are in violation of state law if they drive with any concentration of alcohol (0.0 to 0.4%), possession of alcohol while driving, or driving within four hours of consuming alcohol. The punishment for these offenses is relatively minor, however, resulting in a $10 fine and loss of license for 24 hours. Again, penalties become much harsher depending on the BAC or severity of injuries caused.

Wisconsin clearly takes drunk driving very seriously. For more information on OWI law, contact Milwaukee OWI defense lawyers Kohler & Hart.

Joseph Devine


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