In the state of Wisconsin, a driver is considered to be operating while intoxicated (OWI) if his or her blood-alcohol content is .08 percent or higher. The state adopted this lower standard in 2003, becoming the 43rd state in the nation to do so. Under Wisconsin OWI laws, commercial vehicle drivers will be charged if their BAC measures .04 percent or higher. Drivers under the age of 21 face a Zero Tolerance policy, meaning they will be subject to arrest if they have a BAC of .02 percent or more. Wisconsin OWI laws also prohibit the operation of a vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance, such as marijuana, cocaine or other intoxicants.
Implied Consent State
In 2008, the Wisconsin legislature adopted tougher penalties for drivers who refuse to submit to a chemical test, making the state an implied consent state. Under this concept, by driving you effectively consent to submit to breath, blood or urine testing upon the request of any officer who has reason to believe that you have been driving under the influence. Refusal to submit to these tests will result in an automatic one-year suspension of your driver’s license, and your refusal can be used as evidence against you in court. The arresting officer is required to inform you of this prior to asking you to submit to a test. You have the right to request additional tests to be performed by the medical professional of your choice.
Additionally, you may be asked to submit to a preliminary breath test, which is considered part of the field sobriety testing. You are free to refuse to submit to this test in Wisconsin without penalty. Officers can use other means of determining probable cause, such as the smell of alcohol. The officer does not have to observe you driving in order to place you under arrest for OWI. Even in you have pulled off the road, you can be charged if you are effectively in control of the vehicle.
OWI Penalties in Wisconsin
Operating while intoxicated is a misdemeanor charge in the state of Wisconsin. For a first offense, you will face a fine ranging from $100 to $500 and a six- to nine-month license suspension, although you can apply for a restricted license immediately. You will also be required to undergo an alcohol use assessment and provide the state with an SR-22 from your insurance carrier. The penalties for second and subsequent violations can include increased penalties and fines, jail time, a waiting period before applying for a restricted license, possible vehicle immobilization or seizure and ignition interlock devices. All penalties can be as much as doubled if your BAC was 0.15 or higher at the time of arrest or if anyone in the vehicle with you was under the age of 16.
Changes to Wisconsin OWI Laws in 2010
Wisconsin Act 100 took effect in July of 2010 and changed some driving impairment laws, including misdemeanor classifications and probation eligibility. The legislation also expanded the use of ignition interlock devices. The new law makes these devices mandatory for second-time offenders and first-time offenders who record a BAC of .15 or above. The state law does allow for immobilization or ignition interlock devices to be waived if this would cause hardship for another person who must also drive the vehicle.
What Is The Legal Alcohol Limit In Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 percent. While this alcohol level is the same applied throughout the U.S., many other aspects of the state’s laws differ from other locations. For example, Wisconsin is the only state where a first operating while under the influence (OWI) offense is not considered a criminal charge. Instead, it is a traffic infraction.
Even with that being the case, penalties for an OWI conviction are typically very severe. Punishments may include:
- Fines. There is a wide range concerning fines, from a few hundred dollars for a first offense to $10,000 or more for OWI-related incidents in which someone is hurt.
- Incarceration. These penalties also vary considerably; a second offense may call for between five days and six months in jail while a prison term of six years or longer may apply if someone is hurt as a result of an OWI offense.
- Loss of driving privileges. A license revocation period of between six and nine months can accompany the first conviction; more severe offenses might result in a revocation period of three years.
These are some of the most damaging penalties drivers convicted of OWI may face, though additional punishments can apply based on the circumstances of an alcohol-related incident.
Ignition Interlock Requirements In Wisconsin
Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are designed to stop people convicted of DUI from offending again. Devices connect to an ignition system and won’t allow a vehicle to start if there is a failed breath test.
Following are some important things to understand about IIDs:
- A person convicted with a BAC of .15 percent or greater must have an IID installed.
- Devices are installed at the expense of individuals’ convicted.
- Devices installed on vehicles record failed tests, which can be used to justify further punishments.
Many additional provisions, of course, relate to the installation and maintenance of ignition interlock devices – all of which must be observed by offenders
Wisconsin DUI (OWI) Penalties
Individuals can be charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) and potentially face Wisconsin OWI penalties if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is measured at or above .08 percent after being stopped by an officer. OWI is defined as driving under the influence of alcohol, legal prescription drugs or any illegal or chemical substances. An individual may also be found guilty of an OWI if any trace of an illegal substance is found in his or her bloodstream.
Wisconsin has a wide definition of what constitutes an OWI: The statutes declare a person to be operating while intoxicated if he or she is in any way impaired due to the use any substance ranging from alcohol to illegal substances. The state also has a zero-tolerance law in effect that states that any driver under the age of 21 will be found guilty of an OWI with a BAC of .02 or higher.
Wisconsin OWI Penalties
If a person accused of OWI refuses to take a Breathalyzer or equivalent chemical test in Wisconsin, he or she may face monetary fines as well as jail time and license suspension. Those found guilty of an OWI will receive six points on their licenses in addition to multiple other penalties.
While license suspension is a penalty that accompanies all OWI convictions in Wisconsin, it is possible to apply for an occupational license to mitigate some of the limitations imposed by the suspension. Occupational licenses allow OWI offenders to drive to and from work. First-time offenders can apply for occupational licenses immediately while repeat offenders may only apply after 45 days of license suspension.
Penalties for a 1st OWI Conviction
A first-time OWI offender will face fines ranging from $150 to $300 and an additional $355 OWI surcharge. First-time offenders will also face mandatory alcohol treatment and assessment as well as a six- to nine-month license suspension period, but they are not required to serve jail time.
Wisconsin focuses on education and rehabilitation with the first OWI offense in the hopes of preventing future offenses. If a person commits a second OWI more than 10 years after the first OWI, he or she will face milder penalties similar to those imposed on first-time offenders. However, if an individual is found guilty of a second OWI within 10 years of the first conviction, a period of time known as the “look-back period,” harsher Wisconsin OWI penalties apply. Second-time offenders will receive anywhere from five days to six months in jail, and they will also have to pay steeper fines ranging from $350 to $1,100. These offenders will also face a license suspension period of 12 to 18 months.
As the count of OWI convictions goes up, so do the penalties. After the second OWI offense, fines can range from $600 to as much as $25,000 depending on the circumstances of the case. A fifth OWI offense is considered a Class H felony and can lead to up to six years in prison while upwards of seven OWI offenses is considered a Class G felony with up to 10 years in prison, and being found guilty of 10 or more OWIs can result in 12.5 years in prison.
Causing injury or death during an OWI-related incident in Wisconsin adds further penalties, including steep fines and prison time. Other penalties also apply if the OWI is committed while a minor under the age of 16 is in the vehicle at the time; these penalties include longer license suspension periods and longer prison sentences.