Few people in Wisconsin expect to be pulled over and placed under arrest for suspected drunk driving. As a result, they may be caught off guard. Failing to understand the potential consequences of being convicted of such charges can result in serious legal ramifications with long-term implications.
Typically, alcohol-impaired driving is termed operating while intoxicated, or OWI, in the state of Wisconsin. There is a range of penalties that people may face as a result of OWI convictions. The types of penalties can be dependent on a number of factors, including prior convictions, drivers' blood alcohol content levels and the circumstances surrounding the arrest.
First OWI offense
In general, first OWI convictions do not typically carry mandatory jail sentences. However, the penalties for a first offense can nonetheless be very serious. Under Wisconsin state law, people in these cases may be ordered to pay fines of between $150 and $300. These fines are in addition to other court costs, fees and an OWI surcharge of $365.
Beyond the fines and other expenses, people may also face driving consequences for a first time OWI conviction. This includes losing their driving privileges for anywhere between six and nine months. In cases when drivers' blood alcohol content is 0.15 or higher, they are generally required to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles.
Second OWI offense
Depending on the circumstances, the penalties for second OWI offenses can be considerably more serious. People who are convicted of a second OWI within 10 years of their first convictions may face up to six months in jail. Furthermore, the fines are generally increased to anywhere from $150 to $1,100.
Second OWI offenses also typically result in driver's license suspensions. The terms of these suspensions can be anywhere from six to 18 months. Additionally, second offenses can result in drivers being required to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. This is mandatory for a period of one year to 18 months for those who are convicted of a second OWI within 10 years of the first.
Third OWI offense
A third OWI offense tends to result in increased fines and penalties. People in these cases may be required to pay fines that range from $600 up to $2,000 under Wisconsin state law. Furthermore, a third conviction generally results in a driver's license suspension of between two and three years. Following a third OWI conviction, drivers are required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles for a period of one to three years after regaining their driving privileges.
Additionally, convictions in these cases generally result in mandatory jail time. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, a third offense typically carries a jail sentence of between 45 days and one year.
Subsequent OWI offenses
After three prior OWI convictions, the penalties are significantly enhanced. For these people, the legal blood alcohol content limit drops from .08 to .02. They are typically required to pay increased fines, and are subject to driver's license suspensions. Once those privileges are restored, the installation of ignition interlock devices is mandatory.
Depending on the circumstances, subsequent OWI offenses may be considered felonies. Therefore, they may be subject to lengthier prison sentences of anywhere from six months to 12.5 years.
Obtain legal representation
Being accused of OWI in Wisconsin can be a serious offense, with lasting implications. As such, it may be of benefit for people who are facing such charges to seek legal counsel and representation. Working with an attorney may help them to understand their options, and ensure their rights are upheld.