DUI & DWI in Wisconsin
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The charge of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) is a very serious charge in Wisconsin. In 2003, Wisconsin became the 43rd state to lower the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) to a level of 0.08, which makes the OWI laws even tougher on those who drink and drive.
If you are arrested and charged with an OWI, you will likely want to engage the services of a good OWI attorney. Whether you believe yourself guilty or not, the charge of OWI is a serious enough offense, with mandatory jail time along with other penalties, that the court will assign you legal representation if you cannot afford your own.
If you are over the age of 21, here are the four ways that the law defines intoxication:
- Driving with a BAC of 0.08 or greater.
- Driving while under the influence of an intoxicant, including alcohol, legal prescription medications, illegal or controlled drugs, or other chemical substances.
- Driving with a detectable amount of any restricted controlled substance in the blood stream.
- Driving while under the influence of a controlled substance or any other drug.
While the last three definitions sound alike, they are written that way so that they covers a wide variety of intoxicating substances, whether the substance in the bloodstream ranging from intoxication by a valid prescription medication, an illegally-obtained Schedule I controlled substance, down to intoxication from sniffing glue or chewing raw Jimson weed. Wisconsin law states:
- "A driver is "under the influence" when his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired. A person's ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired if he or she is less able to safely control the vehicle because of the consumption of alcohol or controlled substances."
If you are arrested and asked for a blood or breath sample for testing and you refuse, you may incur additional penalties including a suspension of your driver's license, possible jail time, and a monetary fine.
In Wisconsin a first OWI offense is handled at the civil court level, with no mandatory jail time, but still has a substantial impact on the convicted driver. Here are the penalties for a first time OWI:
- Fine: Between $150 - $300
- OWI surcharge: $355
- License suspension: six to nine months
- Occupational license: Allowed
- Assessment of alcohol/drug use: Yes
- Points: Six
The alcohol/drug use assessment is an examination of the drinking and drug use of the convicted OWI driver to determine whether or not a drug or alcohol problem exists. These basements are performed by a trained alcohol/drug counselor and, depending on the results, will result in a referral to either an educational program or a counseling program.
The occupational license is a limited driver's license that will allow the convicted OWI driver to drive a vehicle to and from home and work or home and school.
Wisconsin provides an online tool for you to check whether or not you are eligible for an occupational license.
The first conviction penalties for an OWI driver is geared toward education and changing the habits of the convicted driver. Additional conviction penalties do not offer the same leniency. The fines, license suspensions, and driving record points increase for each additional conviction, along with mandatory jail time for a second and any subsequent OWI convictions.
While occupational licenses are still available, depending on the severity of the charge, the wait time can run anywhere from 30 to 120 days. The additional points entered against your driver's license will also affect your car insurance rates.
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