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OWI Laws

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Under Wisconsin law, you may not drive or operate a motor vehicle while:

(a) Under the influence of an intoxicant, a controlled substance, a controlled substance analog or any combination of an intoxicant, a controlled substance and a controlled substance analog, under the influence of any other drug to a degree which renders you incapable of safely driving, or under the combined influence of an intoxicant and any other drug to a degree which renders you incapable of safely driving; or

(b) You have a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in your blood. [“Restricted controlled substances” include most Schedule I controlled substances as well as cocaine and methamphetamine.]

(c) You have a prohibited alcohol concentration (.08% or greater alcohol content; however, if you have three or more OWI related convictions, suspensions, or revocations then operating with a alcohol content greater than .02% is prohibited). This is sometimes referred to as “PAC” or a “per se OWI.”

If you have not attained the legal drinking age (you are under 21 years of age), you may not drive or operate a motor vehicle while you have an alcohol concentration of more than 0.0 percent but not more than 0.08 percent. In Wisconsin, a OWI is usually a misdemeanor crime. However, a first OWI conviction is not considered a crime, so jail time is not possible. However, if you commit an OWI with a child under 16 years of age in the car, even a first offense is now a misdemeanor crime. Also a first offense can be charged criminally if there was an injury caused by the intoxicated driving. A fourth OWI is a felony if the new offense is within five years of a prior OWI conviction. A fifth or greater OWI offense is a felony charge.

Upon conviction of a Wisconsin OWI offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including: mandatory jail time / alcohol screening / treatment / education / attendance at a victims impact panel class.

The amount of incarceration (jail or prison) received will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following mitigating and aggravating factors:


  • Older prior OWI offenses
  • Seeking treatment early (before conviction)
  • Good driving record
  • Cooperative with police
  • Low BAC
  • No evidence of bad driving


  • Recent OWI offenses
  • No recognition of substance abuse problem
  • OWI while license is suspended / revoked
  • Resisting arrest / uncooperative with police
  • High BAC
  • Poor driving; collision; accident
  • Injuries / property damage involved
  • Child under 16 in car
  • Use of controlled substances with alcohol

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