Avoid an OWI in Wisconsin (5 Things You Need to Know about OWI)

To avoid an OWI in Wisconsin, you should know at least these five things.


I.   OWI in Wisconsin
II.  Penalties
III.The Costs
IV. Sobriety Tests
V.  Avoid Arrest

I. OWI in Wisconsin

It’s illegal to drive (operate a vehicle) while intoxicated. This is called OWI in Wisconsin. In many other states, it’s either DWI or DUI. The latter is driving under the influence.

Drivers are guilty of OWI under any of these conditions.

(1) Under the influence of an intoxicant so their ability to drive is impaired.

(2) Have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. This is the prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC). The PAC is a BAC of 0.08% or more for first, second, and third offenders. However, it drops to 0.02%  or higher for fourth and subsequent offenses.

It’s also that for drivers required to use an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicles. This device prohibits a car from starting if the driver has alcohol vapors.

(3) Have a detectable amount of any restricted controlled substance in their blood.

Drivers Under Age 21

owi in wisconsinDrivers under age 21, including adults 18 through 20, may have no detectable alcohol in their systems. Most states set the limit at 0.02% or higher. They do this for a simple reason. To reduce the chance of convicting innocent young drivers.

There are several logical reasons for not insisting on a 0.00%. One is that breathalyzers or breath testers are inaccurate. In fact, they don’t actually measure BAC. They only estimate it.

Another reason is that every person’s body naturally produces alcohol 24/7. And that includes young drivers.

A third is that many medications and foods contain alcohol. Even baked goods such as bread have alcohol.

II. Penalties: OWI in Wisconsin

The exact penalties imposed for OWI in Wisconsin vary. Many factors cause these differences. Thy include such things as

  • owi in wisconsin
    Please, no! Not her!

    Driver’s Age.

  • Estimated BAC.
  • Type of license.
  • Any prior OWIs
  • Consequences of the OWI, if any (property damage, injuries, etc.)
  • Any minors in the vehicle.
  • Skill of driver’s attorney.
  • Characteristics of driver (demeanor in court, race, socio-economic status, etc.)
  • Beliefs and personality of judge hearing the case. That’s just the luck of the draw.

First Offense

BAC of 0.08 to 0.149

  • Fine of $150 to $300.
  • License revocation for six to nine months.

owi in wisconsinBAC of 0.15 or higher

  • Fine of $150 to $300.
  • License revocation for six to nine months.
  • Ignition interlock device (IID) or a 24/7 sobriety program for one year. An IID prevents a vehicle from starting if alcohol is on the driver’s breath. Learn more about ignition interlock devices.

Passenger age 15 or younger in vehicle.

  • Fine of $150 to $300.
  • License revocation for six to nine months.
  • Five days to six months imprisonment.
  • Ignition interlock device for 12 to 18 months after imprisonment.

Second Offense

BAC of 0.08% or higher

  • Fine of $150 to $300.
  • License revocation for six to nine months.

BAC of 0.15% or higher

Ignition Interlock Device
  • Fine of $150 to $300.
  • License revocation for six to nine months.
  • Ignition interlock device or a 24/7 sobriety program for one year.

Passenger age 15 or younger in vehicle.

  • Fine of $350 to $1,100.
  • Five days to six months imprisonment.
  • Ignition interlock device for 12 to 18 months.

Third Offense

BAC of 0.08% or higher

  • Fine of $600 to 2,000.
  • 45 days to one year Imprisonment.
  • License revocation for 12 to 18 months after imprisonment.

Passenger age 15 or younger in vehicle

  • owi in wisconsinFine of $1,200 to $4,000.
  • 90 days to two years imprisonment.
  • Ignition interlock device for four to six years after imprisonment.

Fourth Offense

NOTE: BAC of 0.02% or higher

  • Fine of $600 to $10,000.
  • 60 days to six years imprisonment.
  • License revocation of one to three years after imprisonment.
  • Possibility of  Safe Streets option (see below).

Passenger age 15 or younger in vehicle

  • Fine of $1,200-20,000.
  • 120 days to 12 years imprisonment.
  • License revocation of one to three years after imprisonment.
  • Ignition interlock device or 24/7 sobriety program for one to three years.
About OWI Penalties

All convictions for those 21 and older carry a $435 OWI surcharge.

An Excessive BAC Escalator occurs for all third or subsequent OWI convictions. With this penalty, forfeitures and fines are increased depending on BAC level. They’e doubled if the BAC was between 0.17% and 0.199%. If the BAC was between 0.20% and 0.249%, they’re tripled. And if it was 0.25% or higher, they’re quadrupled.

III. Costs of a DWI in Wisconsin

Legal Defense

owi in wisconsinGetting charged with a OWI in Wisconsin is very expensive, as it is elsewhere. And this is true even if you’re innocent. Of course, it’s even more expensive if a judge or jury convicts you.

The cost of a legal OWI defense is very hard to estimate. That’s because the complexity of cases varies widely. And more complex cases take more of a lawyer’s time. That means more money.

It’s wise to select an experienced lawyer who specializes in DUI defense. The knowledge and experience of such a lawyer is invaluable. In fact, such a lawyer may take less time.

Its obvious that simply asking lawyers how much they charge per hour isn’t helpful. It’s like asking a car dealer how much it costs to buy a car.

Other Costs

There are a number of other costs. They may include fines, court costs, property damage, medical expenses, possible loss of employment, increased insurance rates, and other expenses. The total can be high. It can easily be more than lawyer fees and expenses. Therefore, the total cost of an OWI can easily be tens of thousands of dollars.

In addition, there are non-money costs as well. They may include pain and suffering, feelings of guilt, embarrassment, driving license suspension, loss of friendships, and many others.

Knowing the high costs of a OWI is helpful. It’s a great motivation. That can help us try to avoid getting one.

IV. Sobriety Tests

Chemical Tests

owi wisconsinAll states require drivers to submit to alcohol breath tests (estimators). That, in spite of their scientifically proven unreliability.

However, all drivers have a Constitutional right to decline taking a chemical BAC test. In spite of that, the state punishes those who use their right. Their license is revoked on the spot even if they are completely sober. The revocation is for one year. Also, the New Mexico denies any restricted driving for work, school, or other essential activities.

Field Sobriety Tests

However, no state requires drivers to take a field sobriety test. And that’s good. Simply put, field sobriety tests lack validity. That’s why about one-third of completely sober people with a 0.00% BAC fail them. And they do so under ideal conditions.

owi in wisconsinNaturally, taking a field sobriety test on an uneven highway shoulder after being pulled over by police and being very nervous is far from ideal. So the “real world” failure rate for completely sober people must be much higher.

Understandably, lawyers strongly urge drivers never to submit to any field sobriety test. On the other hand, police want suspects to take them. They often falsely insist the law requires it. It doesn’t. Or they say that passing it proves you’re innocent. It doesn’t.

An officer who pulls over a driver for suspected drinking and driving is conducting a criminal investigation. The officer may legally lie to you. Remember that if you are a suspect in a crime, the police officer is your adversary.

Discover much more about field sobriety tests. You may be disturbed by what you learn. But knowledge is power. Also, learn What to Do If You Are Pulled Over.

V. Avoid Arrest: OWI in Wisconsin

owi in wisconsinObviously, one way to avoid a OWI is by abstaining from alcohol. Another choice is to use a Designated Driver or use public transportation.

Most drivers enjoy drinking alcohol, at least on occasion. They may lack a Designated Driver or access to public transportation. And they may be unable to afford Uber or Lynks.

So how can drivers drink before driving, yet avoid arrest? The answer is simple and legal, except for drivers under 21. Maintain a low BAC.

These guidelines can help keep a low BAC.

Owi in wisconsin
Standard Drinks
  • Remember that standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits have equivalent amounts of pure alcohol.
  • Have no more than one standard drink each hour. Preferably less.
  • Avoid non-standard drinks. This makes it easier to keep track of alcohol intake.
  • Eat and snack while drinking. This is very important!
  • Have a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones.
  • Accept an alcoholic drink only when it fits your consumption schedule.
  • Never engage in any drinking game.
  • Don’t try to “keep up” with the drinking of others.
Arrested for OWI in Wisconsin?

This website strongly opposes impaired driving. It also supports the U.S. Constitution and the rights it grants both the innocent and the guilty.

If you’re charged with a OWI in Wisconsin, contact a lawyer immediately. The attorney should specialize in drinking and driving cases. Better yet is one whose practice is limited to such cases.

The State Bar (lawyers’ association) of Wisconsi offers a free lawyer referral service. Martingale-Hubbell offers a free on-line database with lawyers by specialty and geographic location. Also, it provides client and peer evaluations.

Don’t rely on this or any other site for legal information.


OWI with a Minor Passenger.

New Penalties for Fourth OWI Conviction.

Do You Lose Your License for a First OWI?