Wisconsin DUI 101

If you drink and drive in Wisconsin, you could very well end up with a Wisconsin DUI. Here’s what you need to know if you’re facing this charge.

Wisconsin DUI Qualifications

In Wisconsin, law enforcement tends to use the term OWI, or Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated, instead of DUI (Driving Under the Influence) to refer to a drinking-and-driving violation. However, they mean the same thing and can be used synonymously.

If you are a general driver 21 years of age or over and your blood alcohol content, or BAC, is at least .08 percent, you can be convicted of an OWI in Wisconsin. If you are driving commercially, all it takes is a .04 percent BAC to be convicted of this charge. If you’re under the age of 21, all you need to have is a .02 percent BAC to be facing an OWI.

Wisconsin Penalties for OWI

For your first OWI conviction in Wisconsin, you could be facing a minimum fine of $150. You could also have your license suspended for six to nine months, but be eligible for an occupational license, which means you’re allowed to drive to work and back. You might also be required to obtain an SR22 insurance policy and face an alcohol assessment program.

A second OWI conviction could land you in jail for a minimum of five days and get you a fine of at least $300. You could have your license suspended for 12 months, but be eligible for an occupational license after 60 days, or one year if you’ve been convicted of a previous OWI within the last five years. You’ll have to provide an SR22 insurance policy for the occupational license. Other penalties include your vehicle being immobilized, an ignition interlock device being installed on your vehicle and possible alcohol assessment.

If you are convicted of a third OWI in Wisconsin, you could be looking at a minimum of $600 in fines and 30 days in jail, as well as a license suspension for a minimum of two years. You could be eligible for an occupational license after 90 days, or one year if you’ve had two OWI offenses within five years. If you’re eligible for the occupational license, you could be required to carry an SR22 policy on your insurance. You might also have your vehicle immobilized or seized, or an ignition interlock device could be installed, or you could face an alcohol assessment.

A fourth OWI in Wisconsin could bring with it 60 days in jail and $600 in fines, as well as a suspended license for two years, with the possibility of an occupational license after 90 days — that is, unless you’ve had two other OWI offenses within the last five years, in which case you might have to wait a year before you can get an occupational license. With that license, you’ll be required by the state to carry an SR22 insurance policy. Other penalties could include an alcohol assessment, the installation of an ignition interlock device, or the immobilization or seizure of your car.

A fifth or sixth OWI in Wisconsin could land you in jail for six months, a $600 fine and a license suspension of two years. You could be eligible for an occupational license after 90 days, except if you’ve been convicted of two OWI offenses within the last five years; then you could be eligible for the license after one year. In order to be able to have an occupational license in Wisconsin, you’ll be required to carry an SR22 insurance policy. With a fifth or sixth offense, you could also have an ignition interlock system installed on your car, face an alcohol assessment or have your vehicle immobilized or seized.

New Law Warning

In 2010, Wisconsin upped its penalties for someone who refuses a chemical test after they are stopped by a peace officer on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Wisconsin is now considered an implied consent state, meaning if you don’t consent to a chemical test, you could have your license suspended and/or face jail time.

Wisconsin is starting to crack down hard on drinking-and-driving violations in the state, so be smart and pass the keys to someone else instead of getting behind the wheel intoxicated. Otherwise, you may end up finding yourself in possession of a cumbersome Wisconsin DUI or OWI charge.