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Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)

Being charged with an OWI is a serious matter that demands immediate and strategic legal attention. Wooley Law uses a comprehensive approach to challenge evidence, scrutinize procedures, and advocate for your rights. We understand the stakes involved and are dedicated to providing a strong defense tailored to your case. 

In Wisconsin, drunk driving laws, commonly referred to as OWI laws, are stringent and strictly enforced. If suspected of OWI, Law Enforcement may conduct or review the following factors:

  • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits: Wisconsin follows the standard BAC limit of 0.08% for drivers aged 21 and older. However, lower BAC limits apply to commercial drivers (0.04%) and drivers under the age of 21 (0.00% or zero tolerance).

  • Field Sobriety Test (FST): Voluntary test used to assess a driver's level of impairment during a traffic stop. 

  • Implied Consent Law: Wisconsin's implied consent law mandates that drivers consent to chemical testing (breath, blood, or urine) if lawfully arrested for OWI. Refusal to submit to chemical testing can result in immediate license suspension and other penalties.

  • Enhanced Penalties for Aggravating Factors: Wisconsin imposes enhanced penalties for OWI offenses involving aggravating factors such as high BAC levels, multiple OWI convictions, accidents causing injury or death, and driving with a passenger under the age of 16.

If Convicted of a DUI or OWI in Wisconsin, you could face one of the following consequences:

  • Penalties for OWI Offenses: The penalties for OWI offenses in Wisconsin vary depending on factors such as the driver's BAC level, prior OWI convictions, and any aggravating circumstances. Penalties may include fines, license suspension or revocation, mandatory alcohol education or treatment programs, ignition interlock device installation, and even jail time.

  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID) Program: In Wisconsin, certain OWI offenders may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicles. An IID measures the driver's BAC level before allowing the vehicle to start and may be mandated as a condition of license reinstatement.

  • Alternative Programs: Wisconsin offers alternative programs such as the Alcohol Highway Safety Program (AHSP) and the Driver Safety Plan (DSP) for first-time OWI offenders. These programs may allow offenders to avoid some of the traditional penalties by completing education or treatment requirements.


What is a Field Sobreity Test?

Participation in field sobriety tests in Wisconsin is voluntary. Drivers have the right to refuse to perform these tests without facing immediate legal penalties, however, refusal may result in other consequences such as arrest or suspension of driving privileges.

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): The officer will observe the driver's eyes as they track a moving object horizontally. Involuntary jerking of the eyes may become more pronounced when a person is impaired by alcohol or drugs.

  2. Walk-and-Turn (WAT): The driver is asked to take a series of steps along a straight line, heel-to-toe, and then turn and return in the opposite direction. The officer looks for indicators of impairment, such as the inability to maintain balance or follow instructions.

  3. One-Leg Stand (OLS): The driver is instructed to stand on one leg while raising the other leg off the ground and counting aloud for a specified period. The officer observes for signs of swaying, hopping, or other indicators of impairment.

If a driver is arrested for DUI or OWI based on the results of field sobriety tests or other evidence, they may be asked to submit to chemical testing (breath, blood, or urine) to determine their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Wisconsin's implied consent law requires drivers lawfully arrested for DUI or OWI to submit to chemical testing. Refusal may result in administrative penalties such as license suspension.

Car Lights

OWI First:

In Wisconsin, a 1st OWI is not a criminal offense, however, there are still serious consequences that must be taken seriously. Fines will range from $150-$350, plus a mandatory $435 OWI surcharge. Your driver's license is also in jeopardy of suspension up to 9 months. An Ignition Interlock Device, costing over $1000, also may be required to be installed in your vehicle.

An OWI is not just a Traffic Ticket, it is considered a Civil Offense. An OWI conviction will appear on background checks and can not be removed off of the public record. Getting one OWI could cause consequences with your job, and driver’s license, and cost thousands of dollars. 

OWI Second:

If a 2nd OWI occurs within 10 years of the 1st offense, you will be facing Criminal Charges with severe penalties. Fines range from $350-$1100, plus the $435 OWI Surcharge. Offenders will face 5 days to 6 months in jail with a driver's license revocation of 12-18 months. An Ignition Interlock Device will be required for 12-18 months, limiting your Blood Alcohol Level to be 0.02 at all times. An Alcohol Assessment, costing about $250, may be ordered to determine if substance abuse treatment is necessary. 

Penalties may be influenced by factors such as prior criminal history, the presence of aggravating factors (e.g., high BAC level, accident involvement), and the discretion of the judge presiding over the case. 

OWI Third:

Unlike prior OWI convictions, the rule that your last offense had to occur within ten years no longer applies. A 3rd OWI conviction includes any prior OWI convictions no matter how long ago they occurred.

Fines will range from $600 to $2000, plus the $435 OWI Surcharge, with the possibility of Court Fees. Offenders will face 45 days up to 1 year in jail. Upon conviction, your driver's license will be revoked for a minimum of 2 to 3 years with 1 to 3 years with an Ignition Interlock Device. If you obtain an Occupational License, absolute sobriety must be maintained. A 3rd OWI will also institute a Legal BAC of .02 for the rest of your life.

Additional factors, such as having a minor in the car, an excessive BAC, or causing injury to another person, may increase the penalties and fines than what is stated above, including Felony Charges.

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