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.