Wisconsin’s Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties

Learn about the penalties for an OWI/DUI conviction in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin prohibits a person from operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) by drugs or alcohol. This prohibition includes any person who drives or operates a vehicle:

  • with a prohibited blood alcohol concentration (per se DUI),
  • while “under the influence” of any substance that renders the person incapable of safely driving, or
  • with any detectable amount of restricted controlled substances (such as methamphetamine) in the blood.

A prohibited blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is any BAC of .08% or more regardless of the person’s level of actual impairment. The volume of alcohol necessary to reach these BAC levels can differ depending on the person’s gender, body size and the type of alcohol. Our BAC calculator and BAC table can give you an estimate of what your BAC might be after a specific number of drinks.

Wisconsin OWI Penalties

Wisconsin has established minimum and maximum penalties for OWI convictions based upon the number of prior offenses within the last ten years (or within a lifetime for third offenses). Based on these limits and the circumstances of the offense, the judge will decide the final punishment.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

None

5 days to 6 months

45 days to 1 year

Fines

$150 to $300

$350 to $1,100

$600 to $2,000

Treatment. Every person convicted of an OWI in Wisconsin is required to submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation. This evaluation will be used to create a driver safety plan which outlines the treatment, OWI education, and sobriety testing required for the offender.

Community service. The judge is permitted to order community service for some OWI convictions. For a second-offense DUI, the judge can order 30 days of community service instead of jail time.

Probation. Some of the jail term can be suspended if the judge orders probation for the offender. However, for a third-offense OWI, the judge must order at least 14 days jail time even if probation and treatment are ordered.

Young passengers. For any OWI conviction that involved a passenger under 16 years old, the fine, jail time, and license revocation period will be doubled.

Excessive BAC. A driver with a BAC of .17 to .199% will face doubled fines. The fine is tripled for a driver with a BAC of .20% to .249% and quadrupled for a driver with a BAC of .25% or greater.

Driver’s License Sanctions

For an OWI conviction, the court will order the driver’s license be revoked for the following periods:

  • First offense. Six to nine-month driver’s license revocation.
  • Second offense. 12 to 18-month driver’s license revocation.
  • Third offense. Two to three-year driver’s license revocation.

Hardship license. Any driver whose license is revoked for an OWI conviction can request a hardship or occupational license. Judges are permitted to issue one of these restricted licenses which can be used only for travel related to work, school, or treatment purposes.

Ignition interlock. The use of an ignition interlock device (IID) will be required for at least one year after the driver obtains either a hardship license or a reinstated driver’s license.

Underage OWIs

Drivers who are under 21 years old can also be convicted of an underage OWI. Underage motorists who are caught driving with a BAC greater than .0% but less than .08% face a three-month license suspension and $200 fine.

Plea Bargaining in Wisconsin OWI Cases

While a prosecutor is unlikely to outright dismiss an OWI charge—unless the court throws out evidence that’s critical to prove the charge—Wisconsin law doesn’t prohibit reducing an OWI charge to a lesser offense. Visit with an attorney about the possibility of pleading to a different charge with fewer penalties.

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