New OWI Penalties Begin January 1

A bill signed into law by Governor Scott Walker back in April is set to take effect as we ring in the New Year.  The new law affects the OWI penalties for repeat drunk drivers.

OWI Penalties for 4th Offenses

OWI penalties can be confusing, so let’s first look at what the current law is:

  • OWI 4th offense (no prior offenses within the previous five years) – Minimum of 60 days jail; maximum of 1 year jail. Minimum fine of $600; maximum fine of $2000.  Classified as a misdemeanor.
  • OWI 4th offense (with at least one prior offense within the previous five years) – Minimum of 6 months jail; maximum of 3 years initial confinement in prison. Minimum fine of $600; maximum fine of $10,000.  Classified as a felony.

Under the new law, all 4th offenses are classified as felonies with a minimum period of incarceration of 60 days.  Interestingly, the new law repeals the “4th offense within 5 years” provision, which required a mandatory period of incarceration of six months.  Now, all 4th offenses, regardless of when the 3rd offense occurred, will be classified a felony with a minimum of 60 days in jail and a maximum of 3 years initial confinement.  There is also a mandatory $600 fine, and the maximum fine is $10,000.

OWI Penalties for 5th and 6th Offenses

Under current law, all 5th and 6th offenses are felonies with a minimum of 6 months jail and a maximum of 3 years initial confinement.  The fines range from a minimum of $600 to a maximum of $10,000.

The new law increases the term of initial confinement to 5 years in prison with a minimum of 6 months in jail.  It keeps the minimum fine at $600, but increases the maximum possible fine to $25,000.

OWI Penalties for 7th, 8th, and 9th Offenses

Under the current law, all 7th, 8th, and 9th offenses are felonies with a minimum of three years initial confinement in prison and a maximum period of initial confinement of five years.  There is no minimum fine, but the maximum is $25,000.

The new law will keep the minimum term of confinement at three years, but increases the maximum term of initial confinement to 7.5 years.  The fine structure will remain the same.

OWI Penalties for 10th and Above

Under current law, all 10th offenses are classified as felonies with a minimum period of initial confinement of four years and a maximum period of initial confinement of 7.5 years.  There is no minimum fine, but the maximum is $25,000.

The new law keeps the minimum term of confinement at four years, but increases the maximum term of initial confinement to 10 years.  There is no minimum fine, but the maximum fine increases to $50,000.

What this Means for You

As mentioned previously, OWI penalties can be confusing.  But what is clear is that the Wisconsin Legislature is under increasing pressure to stiffen the OWI laws in Wisconsin.  If you are charged with any OWI, it is important to have an attorney represent you who knows the ins and outs of OWI defense.  Both Attorney Matthew Meyer and Attorney Benjamin Van Severen have handled all levels of OWI cases throughout Wisconsin.  Call us today to discuss your OWI case!