What is an OWI in Wisconsin?
Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) in the State of Wisconsin is a traffic offense that occurs when a person’s capability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired due to the intake of intoxicants or controlled substances. The Department of Transportation is responsible for implementing traffic regulations within the state and penalizing persons who violate such laws. Upon arrest by law enforcement officers, the Wisconsin Judicial Branch hears OWI cases and determines if an individual is guilty of the crime.
What happens when you get an OWI for the First Time in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, the first OWI incident of an offender is not a criminal violation. Regardless of the circumstances, the offender does not go to jail. Usually, first offense OWI is punishable by a fine of $150 to $300 and a surcharge of $435. Other mandatory court fees may apply. The DOT will also revoke offenders’ license for a period of six to nine months. If the offender’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest is above 0.15%, an ignition interlock device (IID) is installed in their vehicle, or they are mandated to participate in a sobriety program for a year. Alleged offenders can contest OWI at the Municipal Court if they feel unfairly booked. The court conducts a hearing for contested OWI cases.
How Likely is Jail Time After a First OWI in Wisconsin?
It is not likely for first offense OWI to be punished with a jail term in Wisconsin. Under the state’s OWI laws, first offense OWI is not a criminal traffic violation and does not warrant incarceration. However, other penalties like fines and loss of driving privileges are imposed.
What are the Typical Penalties for an OWI Conviction in Wisconsin?
OWI convictions can warrant court-issued penalties, administrative penalties, or a combination of both. Typical penalties for an OWI conviction include:
- Jail Term: OWI can result in a jail term for offenders. While first-time offenders do not face imprisonment, a second OWI offense within ten years is punishable by incarceration of five days to six months. A third offense can result in forty-five days to a year of imprisonment. Subsequent OWI convictions carry a longer jail sentence.
- Fines: For first OWI, offenders pay a fine between $150 to $300. Charges increase as the OWI is more severe due to aggravating factors such as reckless driving and repeat offenses. The third offense is penalized by up to $2,000, while a tenth OWI or more results in a maximum of $50,000.
- License Suspension: The DOT suspends the license of OWI violators. A first offense can lead to a revocation of six months to nine months. A second OWI conviction warrants a suspension between a year to eighteen months. Further OWI convictions result in revocation of two years and above. Individuals with a first OWI can get an occupational license that allows restricted drive from their place of residence to their job.
- Ignition Interlock Device (IID): This device is installed in an OWI offender’s vehicle to prevent it from starting if the device detects alcohol in their breath. First offense OWI results in IID for a year if the BAC is 0.15% or more.
- Sobriety treatment/program: The court may order the offender to participate in a sobriety program, usually as a substitute to IID. Such programs are 24/7 and last for a minimum of a year.
How Long Does an OWI Stay on Your Record in Wisconsin?
OWI in Wisconsin stays on an offender’s record permanently. Having an OWI on one’s record usually results in an auto insurance increase. However, OWI convictions on driving records last for ten years. The state laws have no provision for offenders to expunge OWI from their records.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How do I Find OWI Checkpoints in Wisconsin?
The State of Wisconsin prohibits OWI checkpoints and deems them illegal. Typically, OWI checkpoints are set up on roads to enable law officers to stop drivers and perform sobriety tests on them. In Wisconsin, law officers must have probable cause before a driver can be arrested for OWI.
What is an Aggravated OWI in Wisconsin?
Aggravated OWI in Wisconsin occurs when there are some circumstances involved with the incident that leads to a more serious offense with harsher penalties. Circumstances that can result in an aggravated DUI are:
- If the offender has a blood alcohol content of 0.05% or higher at the time of the OWI
- If the OWI leads to severe bodily injury or death and the offender’s BAC is 0.08% or higher
- Prior OWI convictions within ten years
- If a minor aged fifteen years or younger is in the vehicle at the time of the offense
What Happens When You Get an OWI in Wisconsin?
The penalty for OWI in Wisconsin usually depends if the incident is a repeat offense, and if there are any aggravating circumstances. Typical punishments include incarceration, fines, revocation of license, parole, sobriety program, and an ignition interlock device. Alleged OWI offenders are not mandated to appear in a Municipal Court for first-time offenses. The defendant has to enter a plea in the initial court hearing. If they plead guilty, sentencing follows. However, defendants can contest OWI charges in a bid to have the charges dropped or reduce them.