Drunk driving in Wisconsin: 2024 operating while intoxicated law update

What are drunk driving laws in Wisconsin in 2024?

Drivers in Wisconsin are constantly being bombarded by updated traffic laws.  Frequently, those updated laws include escalating drunk driving penalties throughout the state.  Just years ago, a fourth offense drunk driving charge was not automatically a felony.  Now, it is, and a conviction carries with it the possibility of having to go to prison.

At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., we represent a significant amount of people facing all OWI offenses throughout Wisconsin.  We’ve represented individuals facing their first offense charges, and those with aggravated felony-level drunk driving charges.  We’ve represented individuals facing OWI causing great bodily harm and other serious cases involving aggravating circumstances.  No matter how serious your case is, we can help.  Our law firm certainly works on difficult cases, and we do it regularly.

Finally, we recognize that drunk driving offense often occur in the middle of the night.  Bars close in the early morning throughout the state.  Are law firms open?  Of course not.  But no matter the time, or the date, you’ll reach a real human representing our firm.  Contact us at (414) 270-0202 to figure out how we can help.

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What are Wisconsin’s penalties for drunk driving in 2024?

Wisconsin lawmakers didn’t change the penalties for drunk driving in 2023.  Moving into 2024, the penalties are as follows:

  • First offense operating while intoxicated charges are non-criminal and a conviction cannot result in you being locked up.  If you’re convicted, you face a 6-9 month driver license revocation and a fine of $150.00 – $300.00.  Surcharges and fees are added to this amount, usually multiplying it.  If your blood alcohol content is over a .15, you will also be required to install an ignition interlock device for 12 months.
  • Second offense operating while intoxicated charges are criminal.  They’re a misdemeanor, and the penalties include 5 days – 6 months in jail.  Prison is not a possibility.  Additionally, the defendant faces fines between $350.00 –  $1,100.00 (again, plus surcharges and fees) and a driver license revocation of 12-18 months.  Ignition interlock devices are required for 12-18 months for all second offense drunk driving convictions.
  • Third offense operating while intoxicated charges are the most serious non-felony drunk driving charges you can face.  You cannot go to prison for this offense alone, but face 45 days – 1 year in jail as a penalty.  Fines range between $600.00 and $2,000.00, you’ll be required to install an ignition interlock device for 2-3 years.  You will lose your driver license for 2-3 years.

Importantly, if your driver license is revoked for operating while intoxicated, you are eligible for an occupational license during that revocation.  This only applies to your first three OWI convictions.

Felony OWI penalties in 2024

Drunk driving convictions after your 3rd are felonies.  Additionally, subsequent violations result in the driver losing his license forever.  What are the other penalties for felony OWIs?

  • Fourth offense operating while intoxicated charges are felonies, but laws do not require a sentence to prison.  Instead, incarceration penalties range between 60 days and 6 years in prison.  Fines are $600.00 – $10,000.00.  Your driver license will be revoked 2-3 years and you’ll be required to install an ignition interlock device for 1-3 years.  Importantly, as we previously mentioned, your license will be automatically revoked for life upon a conviction for this offense.
  • Fifth and sixth offense operating while intoxicated convictions result in 1 year prison – 10 years prison, fines ranging between $600.00 and $25,000.00, 2-3 year driver license revocation, and 1-3 year ignition interlock device installation.
  • Seventh, eighth, or ninth offense operating while intoxicated charges carry penalties ranging between 3 years prison and 12.5 years prison.  Fines are up to $25,000.00.  Your driver license will be revoked 2-3 years and you will be required to install an ignition interlock device for 1-3 years.

Drugged driving in Wisconsin update

Surely you can only be charged with operating while intoxicated if you’re actually impaired, right?  The Wisconsin Court of Appeals disagrees.

The appellate court recently upheld the conviction of Dustin J. VanderGalien for homicide by operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.  Law enforcement personnel detected a small amount of an inactive cocaine metabolite in VanderGalien’s bloodstream.  He wasn’t high and he wasn’t acting under the influence of the drug.  But lab testing turned up the metabolite.

The court concluded that including the metabolites of cocaine in the definition of “restricted controlled substance” in section 340.01(50m(c)) of the Wisconsin Statutes is constitutional.  They upheld the conviction against the defendant.

But what does this all mean for you?  Cocaine metabolizes quickly.  Marijuana metabolizes more slowly.  But if law enforcement personnel obtain a sample of your blood, and that blood contains metabolites of a restricted controlled substance, you’ll likely be charged.  Mr. VanderGalien’s situation is a worst case scenario.

The blurred vision of an intoxicated driver
Traffic and drunk driving laws frequently change in Wisconsin. If you’re charged with any sort of criminal or OWI charge, we can help.
Contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202 for a free consultation.

Charged with an OWI in Wisconsin?

People make mistakes.  It’s how you move forward now that matters the most.  As we’ve discussed, a second or subsequent drunk driving conviction must result in some sort of incarceration.  But that’s only for a conviction.  Sometimes we’ll find challenges to the constitutionality of the actions of police or prosecutors that could result in a dismissal of the charges against you.  In other circumstances, your face may be appropriate to fight at trial, in front of either a judge or a jury.

Wisconsin criminal and drunk driving laws are constantly changing.  This is due to statutory changes from lawmakers and decision by appellate courts, such as the one we discussed previously.  It’s important that the defense attorney you hire keep updated on these constant changes.  As this blog post helps to show, we are.

Contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C. at (414) 270-0202 to schedule a free consultation with one of our drunk driving defense lawyers.  We’re available 24/7, as we recognize that individuals get arrested 24/7.

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