Operating while intoxicated – the legal name for drunk or drugged driving – is a very serious offense, and it’s something that will stay on your criminal record. The legal process surrounding OWI can be confusing, so we’ve put together this OWI in Wisconsin FAQ. If you don’t see your question answered here, or if you need to talk to an attorney because you’ve been charged with OWI, call us right away at 414-383-6700 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney.
FAQ on OWI in Wisconsin
Because there’s a lot of misinformation floating around about OWI – and because Wisconsin is different from many other states when it comes to drinking and driving – it’s a good idea to check out these frequently asked questions.
What is an OWI in Wisconsin?
OWI is short for operating while intoxicated, and it can mean that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If the police arrest you for OWI, there’s a very good chance that you’ll spend the night in jail and lose your driving privileges. For most people, the best thing to do is get in touch with an OWI attorney as soon as possible.
Is OWI a Felony in Wisconsin?
Unlike other states, a first-offense OWI, provided that you didn’t hurt anyone and that you didn’t have a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle with you, is not a felony in Wisconsin. Instead, it’s treated as a traffic violation. You’ll lose your driver’s license for 6 to 9 months, and you’ll be fined between $150 and $300 (plus you’ll have to pay a $435 OWI surcharge), if it’s your first offense.
Second-offense OWI is a misdemeanor, and you could spend up to 6 months in jail and pay fines. You’ll also lose your driver’s license for at least 12 months.
Third-offense OWI can be a felony, and you could spend between 45 days and 2 years in jail or prison. You’ll also have to pay serious fines.
Fourth-offense and subsequent OWIs are felonies in Wisconsin.
What Are the Penalties for OWI in Wisconsin?
The penalties for OWI in Wisconsin depend on how many prior OWIs you have had, whether or not you were traveling with someone under the age of 16 in the vehicle, and whether anyone was hurt. This table shows the basics:
|Conviction||Fine/Forfeiture||Jail or Prison||License Revocation|
|First Offense||$150 to $300, plus $435 OWI surcharge||No||6 to 9 months|
|Second Offense||$150 to $300, plus $435 OWI surcharge||No||6 to 9 months|
|Second Offense with prior OWI within 10 years, or prior OWI with great bodily harm or homicide by intoxicated use offense at any time in the past||$350 to $1,100||5 days to 6 months||12 to 18 months (plus the amount of time served in jail)|
|Third offense||$600 to $2,000||45 days to 1 year||2 to 3 years (plus the amount of time served in jail)|
|Fourth offense||$600 to $10,000||60 days to 6 years||2 to 3 years (plus the amount of time served in prison)|
|Fifth and sixth offense||$600 to $25,000||Up to 10 years||2 to 3 years (plus the amount of time served in prison)|
|Seventh, eighth or ninth offense||Up to $25,000||3 to 12 years and 6 months||2 to 3 years (plus the amount of time served in prison)|
|Tenth or subsequent offense||Up to $50,000||4 to 15 years||2 to 3 years (plus the amount of time served in prison)|
|Causing injury with no prior OWI offense or chemical test refusal||$300 to $2,000||30 days to 1 year||1 to 2 years (plus the amount of time served in jail)|
|Causing injury with a prior OWI or chemical test refusal||Up to $10,000||Up to 6 years||1 to 2 years (plus the amount of time served in prison)|
|Causing great bodily harm||Up to $25,000||Up to 12 years and 6 months||2 years (plus the amount of time served in prison)|
|Homicide||Up to $100,000||Up to 25 years||5 years (plus the amount of time served in prison)|
What’s the Difference Between DUI and OWI in Wisconsin?
DUI means driving under the influence, and OWI means operating under the influence. In Wisconsin, you don’t have to be driving for the police to arrest you for OWI; you can simply be sitting in the driver’s seat of a car that’s running and not moving. The bottom line is that with a DUI, the vehicle must be moving; with an OWI, it can be parked.
How Long Does an OWI Stay on Your Record?
An OWI will stay on your record forever in Wisconsin. That means if you had a first-offense OWI two decades ago, it’s still there – and if you’re arrested for OWI again, it will be your second offense. OWIs never “fall off” your record.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About an OWI in Wisconsin?
If you’ve been accused of OWI in Wisconsin, we may be able to help you. Call us right away at 414-383-6700 to schedule a free consultation with a drunk driving lawyer today.