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Understanding the penalty net for a DUI offense in Wisconsin

The State of Wisconsin strictly prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is evidently clear from the strict laws and penalties for DUI offenses in Wisconsin. The prohibition includes anyone who operates or drives a vehicle:

  • With a prohibited BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of 0.08 percent
  • Under the influence of any substance that can make the person incapable of driving safely
  • With any amount of restricted and controlled substance detected in the blood like methamphetamine

A woman drinking alcohol

Penalties for a DUI Offense in Wisconsin

In the spring of 2016, the Senate Bill 455 was signed by Governor Walker into law. This bill laid down stricter laws of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and proposed severe penalties for repeat drunk driving convictions. The penalties were put into effect in January 2017.

In Wisconsin, the minimum and maximum OWI conviction penalties have been established, based upon prior offenses within the last 10 years or within a lifetime for third offenses.

Although the final penalties are decided by the judge, based on the limits and circumstance of the offense, we’ll provide you an overview of what they are likely to be. Let’s take a closer look at what these penalties are and how they can affect your record:

First DUI Offense

In Wisconsin, the first offense OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) /DUI (Driving under Influence) is not considered or charged as a crime unless and until there is an injury or a minor is in the car. However, that doesn’t mean that a first offense OWI should be treated lightly and has no serious consequences. In fact, it is believed that a first-time DUI offence results in more significant penalties in Wisconsin than in any other state.

If you are cited or arrested for drunk driving, you will be treated as a first-time offender. As a first-time offender, you are likely to face a fine of $150 to $300. In addition to this, you may also face substantial court costs.

First-time offenders typically don’t have to serve jail time. However, this can change if you happen to be driving drunk with a passenger who is a minor or less than 16 years of age. In such a situation, you may end up serving up to six months in jail. Furthermore, jail time is also required if you injure someone. This may vary, depending on the situation and injuries incurred by the victim.

Other penalties for a DUI offense in Wisconsin for first-time offenders include driver’s license being revoked for about six to nine months. Also, if you have a BAC of 0.15 and higher, then you will have to get your vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device. You will have to bear the expense on your own.

Also, if you wish to apply for an occupational license after facing a first offense OWI penalty, you can do so but you will have to give an alcohol assessment and may end up getting 6 demerit points on your license.

Second DUI Offense

The penalties and punishments for a second DUI offense in Wisconsin include:

  • A fine ranging from $350 to $1,100 and substantial court costs. You will also have a surge fine of $355. Here it is important to understand that the prices may vary from county to county.
  • You will have to face a minimum jail time of 5 days. However, depending on the severity of your offense, you could end up spending 6 months in jail too. The factors that will determine sentencing include:
  • Your past 10-year driving record
  • If other passengers were with you in the vehicle when the offense occurred
  • If anyone was killed or hurt
  • Your license may be revoked for eighteen months
  • Ignition interlock device will become mandatory. This device will force you to breathe into it first to test your BAC level before you start your car.

Apart from these penalties, you won’t be able to apply for an occupational license (in case you want to) until 45 days after your conviction. Furthermore, you will also have to appear for an alcohol assessment test and face six demerit points on your occupational license.

Third DUI Offense

If you are a third-time offender, then you will have to face harsher penalties than before. These include:

  • A fine of up to $2000, which can be doubled, tripled and even quadrupled, based on your alcohol level
  • The jail time will be more than before—nearly around 45 days to one year
  • Your driver’s license will also be revoked for a period of two to three years
  • You will have to install an ignition interlock device
  • You will not be allowed to apply for a hardship license for nearly 45 days
  • You will have to get an alcohol assessment
  • Besides this, six demerit points will also be applied to your license

Fourth OWI Offense

If you’re convicted the fourth time, then the penalty net for a DUI offense in Wisconsin will be:

  • You will get charged with a felony
  • A fine up to $10,000, which can be increased significantly, based on your alcohol level
  • You will have to face jail time of six years. The maximum initial confinement period is three years while sixty days is the minimum period
  • Your driver’s license will be revoked for nearly 3 years

Other penalties are similar to second and third offenses, which include an alcohol assessment, six demerit points on your license and you can’t apply for a hardship license for 45 days.

Fifth and Sixth OWI Offenses

The penalties for fifth and sixth OWI offenses in Wisconsin are the same. These include:

  • A fine up to $10,000
  • Prison term anywhere from six months to 10 years
  • You license shall be revoked for nearly 3 years
  • You won’t be able to apply for a hardship license for forty five days
  • You will have to give an alcohol assessment
  • Six demerit points will be applied to your license.

Seventh, Eighth and Ninth OWI Offenses

The penalties are in line for seventh, eighth and ninth DUI offenses in Wisconsin. These include the following:

  • A fine up to 25,000 dollars
  • Jail time of 12.5 years, which comes with a minimum confinement period of 3 years to 7.5 years
  • Your license shall be revoked for 3 years
  • You won’t be able to apply for a hardship license for at least 45 days
  • You will get 6 demerit points on your license
  • You will have to take an alcohol assessment

However, at the tenth time, you will have to face a prison term of 15 years with a 4 years minimum and 10 years maximum initial confinement period.

OWI Penalty in case of an Injury

If you were driving drunk and you caused an injury to another person, but with no prior offense and you don’t refuse chemical testing, then you will have to face a fine of up to 2000 dollars and a year in jail. Your license shall also be revoked for 2 years.

But if you caused an injury, have a prior offense and you also refuse to take the chemical test, then you will have to face a fine of $10,000 and six years in prison with other penalties. These penalties are likely to increase if there were minors in the car.

If you have been arrested for a DUI offense in Wisconsin, then consider hiring a lawyer for case representation. A lawyer can help lessen the penalty charges.