Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Wisconsin is a criminal offense. People who decide to drive while high or drunk not only put themselves and the public at risk. They also put themselves in jeopardy of being arrested and incurring a myriad of penalties.
Motorists in Wisconsin who want to avoid being charged with DUI in Wisconsin are advised to learn what the legal blood alcohol content limits are. They also need to learn what kinds of legal consequences can follow after being convicted of this serious crime.
DUI in Wisconsin
Unlike many other states, Wisconsin does not use the acronym DUI to define driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Instead, it uses the acronym OWI, which stands for Operating a vehicle While Intoxicated.
The legal definition of a standard OWI violation applies to drivers who are 21 years of age and older. It involves driving with a blood or alcohol content level of 0.08 percent or higher. It also pertains to driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of any intoxicant, driving with a detectable amount of a controlled substance in one’s blood or driving while under the influence of other drugs like prescription medications.
Also unlike other states, Wisconsin does not permit underage drivers, that is drivers under the age of 21, to have any detectable amount of alcohol or drugs in their system. While other states allow underage drivers to have a BAC of under 0.02 percent, which allows some minors to partake of alcohol for religious purposes or use of medications for illnesses like the flu, Wisconsin has an absolute zero tolerance for drivers under 21. They can be arrested and charged with an OWI if they have any detectable BAC.
OWI Penalties in Wisconsin
The penalties for OWI in Wisconsin increase with the number of OWIs that an offender has on his or her driving and criminal records. The punishments start out with a fine of $150 to $300 for a first-time OWI. The penalties include six to nine months’ license revocation and use of an IID if the person’s BAC is over 0.15 percent.
A second OWI conviction within 10 years leads to:
- $350 to $1000 in fines
- Five days to six months in jail
- 12 to 18 months license revocation
- 12 to 18 months’ use of an IID
A third OWI conviction within 10 years in Wisconsin results in:
- Fines of $600 to $2000
- 45 days to one year in jail
- Two to three years in jail
- One to three years’ use of an IID
The state allows for up to 10 OWI convictions within a 10-year time frame. The 10th OWI conviction in Wisconsin results in:
- Fines up to $25,000
- Four to 12.5 years in prison
- Two to three years’ license revocation
- Use of an IID for one to three years
Fifth and subsequent OWIs are charged as felonies while first through fourth OWIs are charged as misdemeanors.
Wisconsin allows for OWIs to be charged and punished as enhanced offenses if they meet certain criteria. Among them, having children in the car at the time of the offense can result in harsher penalties.
A first-time offender who has children in the vehicle while under the influence faces fines of $350 to $1000, five to six days in jail, and a maximum of 18 months for a license revocation and use of an IID.
A second offense for having children in the car during an OWI results in fines of $700 to $2200 and a jail term of 10 days to two years. The person’s license can be revoked for up to three years, and the person will have to use an IID for the same three-year period.
A third offense for this same charge results in fines of $1200 to $4000 and jail for up to 90 days. The offender’s license can be revoked for up to six years with the person having to use an IID for the same period of time.
Wisconsin does not permit drivers of any age to operate a motor vehicle after using drugs or alcohol. People who engage in this crime can face harsh penalties ranging from months or years in jail to paying steep fines. They also can have their licenses revoked and could be compelled to use an IID on their vehicles.