Criminal Penalties in Wisconsin


Wisconsin law provides criminal penalties, including fines, jail time, license revocation, and sometimes probation, for an OWI conviction. If convicted, the state prescribes minimum penalties for first and subsequent offenses, which vary according to the circumstances that can be proven, such as:

  • The driver’s history of OWI violations and convictions;
  • If a commercial vehicle was being used at the time of the OWI;
  • Whether the OWI violation occurred while there was a child in the vehicle;
  • Whether the OWI violation occurred simultaneously with another dangerous moving violation, such as reckless driving;
  • If the OWI violation involved a car accident;
  • If another person was injured or killed; and
  • Whether the driver was under the legal drinking age at the time of the OWI violation.

Driving Privilege Penalties

In addition to criminal penalties, Wisconsin law also provides for administrative sanctions. An OWI arrest or conviction may have a very negative impact on driving privileges with the possibility of an immediate suspension by the department of motor vehicles; the same could apply to any person refusing to submit to chemical tests.

The driver’s vehicle may also be confiscated or impounded, and the OWI offender will likely incur significant costs. This loss of driving privileges can occur even before an OWI conviction.

As with criminal penalties, the impact of an OWI arrest or conviction on driving privileges will vary according to the driver’s history of OWI violations and the severity of the offense.

Getting an Attorney’s Help

The legal system is complex and, while you have the constitutional right to represent yourself, it is likely you have never set foot in a courtroom to face prosecution if this is your first OWI offense. If this is a second or third offense, then you already know the crucial reasons and tremendous advantages of having a highly experienced OWI defense attorney.

Unlike a civil proceeding, in which money or property may be at stake, people charged with an OWI in Wisconsin are charged with a crime, facing the possibility of jail time and driver’s license revocation. A person charged with a crime requires expert skills of a highly skilled and extensively experienced criminal defense attorney.