WI OWI Penalties | DUI Wisconsin Laws | FAQ

Wisconsin OWI / Drunk Driving Laws

If you have been arrested for drunk driving (Operating While Intoxicated: OWI) in Wisconsin, it is important to know your rights and how to choose the best OWI defense attorney for your case. The following is a list of common questions we hear related to OWI/DUI.

For a free initial discussion regarding your specific case, please call Nelson Defense Group in Hudson, Wisconsin, at 715-386-2694. Our OWI and criminal defense lawyers serve clients statewide.

What Is The Legal Limit In Wisconsin?

The legal limit — or prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC) — is generally 0.08 g/210L of breath or 0.08 g/100 mL of blood. Under certain circumstances, the PAC is much lower — 0.02. (For example, if you have 3 or more prior OWI’s or are under an ignition interlock device order, as well as other rarer situations.) The limit for commercial drivers is 0.04. The legal drinking age in Wisconsin is 21. If you are under the age of 21 and your test comes back with anything over 0.00%, you can be charged with a separate offense under the “zero tolerance” or “absolute sobriety” law.

Can I Refuse the Blood or Breath Test If Arrested for Drunk Driving?

You have the right to do so, but whether that’s advisable truly depends on the particular facts of your case, and you may be risking more serious civil license-related penalties. Like every other state, Wisconsin has an “implied consent” law. This is not a very good name because the law does not really imply or require your consent. It really just means that, if you are arrested for OWI / DUI,  the arresting officer can make you choose to test or not. If you “refuse” after being read the Informing the Accused Form, then your privilege to drive may be revoked. The test can be administered via a breath, blood, or urine test. A judicial finding of a refusal — or a default judgment if you fail to request a hearing within 10 days — will result in the revocation of your license.

If My BAC Is 0.08% Or Over Am I Guilty, Case Closed?

Absolutely not! Thankfully in this country, we do not have trial by machine — we have trial by jury. In order to convict you, the government must convince a jury. Our attorneys have undergone extensive legal and scientific training to defend people accused of a DUI Wisconsin or other offenses. Depending on the individual facts of your case, many potential challenges may exist, including arguments that the test result is wrong. Attorney Adam P. Nero of Nelson Defense Group is one of a small number of Wisconsin defense attorneys with a proven track record of getting Wisconsin jurors to vote “not guilty” even in cases involving tests well over 0.08.

If Convicted Of Drunk Driving, What Type Of Penalties Could I Face?

First Offense

If this is your OWI-1st  offense, you can expect a fine plus court costs totaling between $800-1,000. Six points will be added to your driving record and your license will be revoked for 6-9 months. You will also have to undergo an Alcohol and Other Drug Assessment (AODA) to get your driver’s license reinstated. You may also be subject to an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) order which requires you to install an IID on all vehicles registered to you and prevents you from operating any motor vehicle not equipped with an IID.

Second Offense

An OWI-2nd  offense will result in 5 days to 6 months jail time (which can sometimes be served on electronic home monitoring), a $350-1,100 fine plus court costs, license revocation and ignition interlock device for 12-18 months, and six points added to your driving record. Like a first offense, you will also be required to undergo a chemical assessment before your driving privileges are reinstated.

Third Offense

This is still considered a misdemeanor, but it’s a heavier one. The financial pinch gets tighter with fines, and jail time can stretch from 45 days to a year. Your license? Think about a chilling 2 to 3 years without it.

Fourth Offense

Continued offenses will result in continually harsher penalties. Notably, OWI-4th and subsequent offenses are felony crimes with the potential for a lifetime driver’s license revocation.

Fifth and Sixth+ Offenses

OWI-5th and OWI-6th offenses result in mandatory minimum prison time of 18 months confinement, and OWI-7th and subsequent convictions require the judge to send you to prison for at least 36 months.

Even If I Plan To Plead Guilty, Should I Still Contact A Lawyer?

Yes. If you have been arrested on a drunk driving related offense, a 10-day clock has already begun to run on your right to challenge either the revocation or administrative suspension of your driving privileges. These license proceedings are a related, but distinct issue from your court case and require additional and immediate attention.

A good defense attorney will acquire and review all the relevant materials to your case including: police reports, squad video, dispatch records and maintenance records for the blood/breath testing machinery. The police only have one side of the story and often miss important aspects of the case that are worthy of consideration.

To learn more, please see our overview of what to do if you are arrested for OWI in Wisconsin.

Consult Our Trusted Lawyers If Facing A Charge for an OWI Wisconsin

We pride ourselves on defending people against the power of government in every type of drunk driving case in Wisconsin. If you have been charged with an OWI-related offense, let us fight for you. Call 715-386-2694 to set up a free initial discussion about your OWI matter.