Drunk Driving Defense in Wisconsin


 
OPERATING WHILE INTOXICATED - OVERVIEW
Wisconsin law prohibits a driver 21 years of age or older from operating a motor vehicle:
  • With a Blood/Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or greater;
  • While under the influence of an intoxicant;
  • With a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in his or her blood; or
  • While under the influence of a controlled substance or any other drug.
For drivers with three or more prior Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) convictions, the limit is lower:
they cannot operate a motor vehicle if their BAC is greater than 0.02.
 
Man with a wrecked car — Drunk Driving in Madison, WI
 
 
In Wisconsin, the term “operating” is specifically used in place of the term “driving”. Accordingly, in Wisconsin, driving a vehicle is not required to be convicted of OWI. Starting your car's ignition, even if merely intended to turn on the car's heat, is considered to be “operating” under Wisconsin law. Drivers less than 21 years of age are required by law to maintain "absolute sobriety," and, for them, driving with any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal.
A driver is "under the influence" when his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired. A person's ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired if he or she is less able to safely control the vehicle because of the consumption of alcohol or controlled substances. Even if your blood alcohol concentration is below 0.08, you can still be convicted of OWI if it can be proven that you are impaired by the effects of alcohol in your system.
Penalties for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated range from a forfeiture and license revocation for a first offense, to up to 6 years imprisonment, 3 year license revocation and possible seizure of vehicles for subsequent offenses. Additionally, more severe penalties apply if injury or death results.
OWI PENALTIES (for offenses committed after July 1, 2010) 1st Offense OWI: Jail: None. In Wisconsin, a first offense is a civil (non-criminal) proceeding. Many 1st offense cases are tried before a municipal court, as opposed to a county circuit court. However, if a minor under 16 years of age is a passenger at the time of the offense, the possible jail exposure is 5 days – 6 months. Fine: $150 - $300 (not including court costs and additional surcharges) DL Revocation: 6-9 months (immediate eligibility for an occupational license) Ignition Interlock Device: Only if the driver's blood alcohol concentration is 0.15 or higher
 
1st Offense - Chemical Test Refusal: Jail: None. Fine: None DL Revocation: 1 year (occupational license after 30 days) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
2nd Offense OWI: Jail: 5 days (minimum) – 6 months (maximum) Fine: $350 - $1,100 (not including court costs and additional surcharges) DL Revocation: 12-18 months (occupational license after 45 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
2nd Offense - Chemical Test Refusal: Jail: None. Fine: None DL Revocation: 2 year (occupational license after 90 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
3rd Offense OWI: Jail: 45 days (minimum) – 12 months (maximum) Fine: $600 - $2,000 (not including court costs and additional surcharges) DL Revocation: 2 years – 3 years (occupational license after 45 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
3rd + Offense - Chemical Test Refusal: Jail: None. Fine: None DL Revocation: 3 years (occupational license after 120 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
4th Offense OWI: MISDEMEANOR – (if no previous offenses within 5 years) Jail: 45 days (minimum) – 12 months (maximum) Fine: $600 - $2,000 (not including court costs and additional surcharges) DL Revocation: 2 years – 3 years (occupational license after 45 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
4th Offense OWI: FELONY – (if previous offense within 5 years) Jail: 6 months (minimum) – 6 years (maximum) Fine: $600 - $10,000 (not including court costs and additional surcharges) DL Revocation: 2 years – 3 years (occupational license after 45 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
5th or 6th Offense: FELONY Jail: 6 months (minimum) – 6 years (maximum) Fine: $600 - $10,000 (not including court costs and additional surcharges) DL Revocation: 2 years – 3 years (occupational license after 45 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
7th, 8th or 9th Offense: FELONY Jail: 3 years (minimum) – 10 years (maximum) Fine: up to $25,000 (not including court costs and additional surcharges) DL Revocation: 2 years – 3 years (occupational license after 45 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
10th + Offense: FELONY Jail: 4 years (minimum) – 12.5 years (maximum) Fine: up to $25,000 (not including court costs and additional surcharges) DL Revocation: 2 years – 3 years (occupational license after 45 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
Causing Injury While OWI (no prior OWIs/Refusals) Jail: 30 days (minimum) – 1 year (maximum) Fine: $300 - $2,000 (not including court costs and additional surcharges) DL Revocation: 1 year – 2 years (occupational license after 60 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
Causing Injury While OWI (if ANY prior OWIs/Refusals) - FELONY Jail: 6 years (maximum) Fine: up to $10,000 DL Revocation: 2 years – 3 years (occupational license after 60 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
Causing Great Bodily Harm While OWI - FELONY Jail: 12.5 years (maximum) Fine: up to $25,000 DL Revocation: 2 years (occupational license after 120 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)
Causing Homicide While OWI - FELONY Jail: 25 years (maximum) Fine: up to $100,000 DL Revocation: 5 years (occupational license after 120 days OR after 12 months if 2 or more offenses are within 5 years of each other) Ignition Interlock Device: Yes (mandatory)