OWI vs DUI in Wisconsin - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

Operating while intoxicated is a little bit different from driving under the influence – but many people use the terms interchangeably. You’ve probably heard them referred to as OWI and DUI, respectively, but technically, they’re different types of criminal offenses. Here’s what you need to know.

OWI vs. DUI in Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin law, you aren’t supposed to operate, control or drive any motor vehicle while you’re drunk or under the influence of drugs. That’s where the finer points of the law come in, too. Both offenses are very serious – and both have harsh penalties for convictions – but the differences are as follows:

  • OWI. Operating while intoxicated applies to anyone who is controlling any part of a vehicle that is needed to make the automobile move.
  • DUI. Driving under the influence applies to people who are actually driving a vehicle while they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

While you can’t be charged with DUI unless you’re driving a vehicle, you can be charged with OWI when you’re not actually driving. For example, if you’re sitting in the driver’s seat of a running – but not moving – vehicle while you’re intoxicated (either by alcohol or drugs), the police can arrest you and the state can charge you with a crime.

These offenses can apply whether you’re driving a car, truck, boat, snowmobile or any other motorized vehicle.

Related: Can you get an OWI on a snowmobile in Wisconsin?

Penalties for OWI vs. DUI in Milwaukee

Both OWI and DUI can be misdemeanors or felonies. It depends on how many prior convictions you have. You can check out the Wisconsin DOT alcohol and drug penalties chart to get more information on the possible penalties that apply to your situation.

Do You Need Legal Advice About an OWI or DUI?

If you’ve been arrested and accused of OWI or DUI, you could benefit from working with an attorney. We’ll be happy to help you – just call us right away at 414-383-6700 to schedule your free DUI or OWI consultation.

Carlos Gamino