Some states refers to impaired driving as OWI or operating while intoxicated. Regardless of how it is named, all of them work to combat drunk driving with stiff penalties. Even first-time offenders in Wisconsin don’t always get off easily, and they may face enhanced penalties.
OWI in Wisconsin overview
Wisconsin defines under the influence as drivers deemed incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely. Under Wisconsin statutes, OWI charges may apply in one of three ways:
- Impaired on any amount of a controlled substance detected
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances or legal prescriptions
- Blood alcohol content
A driver with a BAC of .08 can get charged with an OWI and sometimes even if they are below .08. However, the prosecutor must prove the driver failed the field tests to charge a driver with OWI. The BAC for drivers under 21 is .02 under Zero Tolerance laws and .04 for commercial drivers.
First offenses for OWI in Wisconsin commonly only involves fines and no jail time. Even second offenses include jail terms of less than one year and a maximum $1100 fine.
The penalties increase for second and subsequent OWI within 10 years of the previous OWI. However, a previous criminal non-related convictions often increase these penalties, even for first offenses. A first-offense rarely gets criminal charges unless bodily injury/property damage occurred or the driver had a passenger under 16.
A driver with a BAC of .17 or more may get their fines doubled and their fines tripled for a BAC of .20 of more. Drivers who refuse chemical testing could get their license suspended immediately.