Wisconsin Drunk Driving Laws

The OWI and DUI abbreviations are confusing to many people especially those not familiar with drunk driving laws in Wisconsin. OWI stands for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated while DUI stands for driving under the influence. The two abbreviations are often used to describe the same offense of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant. Most states including Illinois use DUI to refer to that offense but in Wisconsin the OWI abbreviation is used often.

OWI In Wisconsin

Unlike other states, you will receive two charges if you are arrested for drunk driving. That is the OWI and PAC charges.  An OWI charge is mainly for driving in an unsafe manner because of intoxication. The PAC charge is for driving with a prohibited blood alcohol concentration, which can be .08% or .02% depending on whether it is your first offense or fourth OWI offense. While a PAC charge is determined by your BAC level, you can get an OWI charge for substances such as marijuana, pain killers and other intoxicating substances. It is not just people who drive cars that can face OWI charges but also people operating motor vehicles such as boats, snowmobiles, and trucks.

Difference Between DUI And OWI

OWI vs DUIYou can get an OWI charge for controlling any part of a vehicle that is needed to make the vehicle move while you are intoxicated. That means that you can get an OWI charge even if you put the key in the ignition but decide not to drive. But you cannot be charged with a DUI in that situation because a DUI is for moving violations. But generally the difference between the two terms is so minimal that the two terms are often used interchangeably. An experienced OWI lawyer can help you understand what your drunk driving charges mean and their consequences.

Penalties For An OWI/DUI Charge

The judge will determine what type of punishment you will get for an OWI based on provisions in the law. Penalties for an OWI get more severe for every subsequent OWI conviction after your first OWI conviction. The OWI the penalties include:

  • A fine of $150 to $300 but no jail time for a first OWI conviction
  • A fine of $350 to $1,100 and 5 days to 6 months in prison for a second offense
  • A fine of $600 to $2,000 and 45 days to 1 year in prison for a third offense

You are also required to do for a drug and alcohol assessment if you have been charged with an OWI offense. In some situations, a judge can decide to order that you go through 30 days of community service instead of jail time for a second offense. However, penalties can be doubled or quadrupled if the offender has multiple OWI convictions.

License revocation And Other Consequences

Your license will be revoked for 6 to 9 months for a first offense and 12 to 18 months for a second offense. The revocation period continues to increase with every subsequent conviction. Talk to your lawyer to find out if you are eligible for an occupational driver’s license that will allow you to drive to work, treatment, or school.