First OWI in Wisconsin: What You Must Know and Do to Minimize Mistakes to Avoid Long-Term Consequences

Man standing and thinking after first OWI in Wisconsin

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First OWI in Wisconsin: What You Must Know and Do to Minimize Mistakes to Avoid Long-Term Consequences

If you’ve recently been charged with your first OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) in Wisconsin, it’s crucial to understand the legal consequences and what steps you can take to minimize the long-term impact on your life. OWI laws in Wisconsin are strict, and misconceptions about the consequences abound. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the penalties for a first OWI in Wisconsin, common misconceptions, the associated costs, and the importance of seeking legal representation.

First OWI in Wisconsin:  Penalties for a First OWI

When facing a first OWI in Wisconsin, it’s essential to be aware of the potential penalties. These can include:

  1. Fines: You may be fined between $150 and $300.
  2. Driver’s License Revocation: Your driver’s license may be revoked for a period of 6 to 9 months.
  3. Ignition Interlock Device (IID): If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds .14%, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
  4. SR-22 Insurance: You’ll need to obtain high-risk auto insurance (SR-22), which can significantly increase your insurance rates.
  5. Mandatory Alcohol and Other Drug Assessment (AODA): You’ll be required to undergo an assessment and follow any recommended treatment, which can be costly.
  6. Occupational Driver’s License: If an IID is required, you’ll also need to cover installation and service charges.

Keep in mind that a first OWI conviction can have consequences beyond the legal system, including travel restrictions, increased insurance rates, and even the risk of job loss.

Additional Penalties for a BAC of .17 or Higher for first OWI in Wisconsin

If your BAC is .17 or higher at the time of your first OWI arrest, additional penalties apply, such as a mandatory IID for 12 months and a legal BAC limit of .02% while the IID is in your vehicle.

Enhanced Penalties for Specific Circumstances for first OWI in Wisconsin

  • If a minor under 16 is in your vehicle during your first OWI, the offense becomes a criminal misdemeanor charge, potentially resulting in up to 6 months in jail, an 18-month license revocation, required IID for up to 2 years, and fines ranging from $350 to $1100 (plus a $435 surcharge).
  • If your first OWI causes injury, you could face 30 days to 1 year in jail, fines of up to $2,000, and doubled penalties if the injured person was under 16.
  • A first OWI causing great bodily harm is classified as a Class F felony with harsh penalties, including up to 12.5 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000. Penalties increase if a pregnant woman (unborn child) was in the vehicle.
  • A conviction for vehicular homicide while OWI (with no prior OWI convictions) is a Class D felony with penalties of up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000. Again, penalties increase if a pregnant woman (unborn child) was in the vehicle.

Common Misconceptions About Your First OWI in Wisconsin

Misconception #1 for First OWI in Wisconsin: “Your first OWI charge is just a ticket.”

Your first OWI is not just a ticket. It’s a serious legal problem with far-reaching consequences, including potential job loss, driver’s license revocation, and significant financial burdens. Once convicted, you can’t remove it from your public record.

Misconception #2 for First OWI in Wisconsin: “You can’t lose your job because of an OWI.”

Depending on your job requirements, an OWI conviction could lead to job loss. If your job involves driving, traveling, or renting vehicles, you may need to explore other career options.

Misconception #3 for First OWI in Wisconsin: “I can’t be convicted if my BAC was below .08%.”

You don’t need a BAC of .08% to be charged with drunk driving in Wisconsin. If the court determines you were unable to drive safely due to any amount of alcohol (even 0.01%), you could face penalties similar to exceeding the legal limit.

Misconception #4 for First OWI in Wisconsin: “You can’t go to jail for your first OWI.”

You can indeed go to jail for your first OWI in Wisconsin, especially if your actions resulted in injury or if there was a minor in the car at the time of the stop.

Misconception #5 for First OWI in Wisconsin: “You can’t get an OWI for driving high on marijuana.”

In Wisconsin, you can be charged with an OWI not only for alcohol but also for driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, and other substances.

How Much Does a First OWI Cost in Wisconsin?

The fine for a first OWI in Wisconsin ranges from $150 to $300. However, the total cost of an OWI conviction can be much higher, including:

  • Mandatory AODA Cost: Participation in Alcohol and Other Drug Assessment and recommended treatment can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket.
  • Insurance Costs After an OWI: You’ll need high-risk auto insurance (SR-22), which can significantly increase your rates, potentially doubling, tripling, or quadrupling what you currently pay.
  • Cost of Required IID: Depending on your case, you may need to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle, which can cost $1,000 or more per year.
  • Driver’s License Fees and Reinstatement Costs: After your OWI conviction, your driver’s license will be revoked for 6-9 months. When you’re allowed to drive again, you’ll need to pay a $200 fee to reinstate your driver’s license.

First OWI in Wisconsin with an Out-of-State Driver’s License

If you’re convicted of your first OWI in Wisconsin with an out-of-state driver’s license, the consequences can be more severe. Wisconsin’s DUI registry can trigger penalties in both Wisconsin and your home state, making it critical to seek legal advice.

First OWI in Wisconsin While Under the Age of 21

If you’re under 21 and facing an OWI charge in Wisconsin, the penalties are more severe than for those 21 and older. You may face a $200 fine, an immediate 3-month license suspension, increased car insurance rates, and the potential loss of scholarships if you’re a college student.

How Long Does a First OWI Stay on Your Record?

In Wisconsin, a first OWI conviction stays on your personal record indefinitely. These records are open to the public and can affect your future employment opportunities and background checks. However, an experienced OWI attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced.

Can an OWI Get Expunged from Your Record?

Expunging an OWI charge in Wisconsin is unlikely, and even if achieved, the Department of Transportation (DOT) won’t recognize the expungement. Therefore, the OWI conviction will remain on your driving record indefinitely.

4 Common Defenses for a First OWI Charge

To determine whether your first OWI charge can be reduced or dismissed, consult an experienced attorney who can evaluate the specifics of your case. Some common defenses used by OWI attorneys include:

  1. Illegal Stop: If it can be shown that you were stopped illegally by the police, your charges may be dropped. Traffic stops can sometimes go beyond their initial purpose, rendering them illegal.
  2. Incorrectly Conducted Blood Alcohol Test: Blood alcohol tests must adhere to precise professional standards. Mishandling or errors in conducting and processing the test can make the evidence inadmissible.
  3. Improperly Conducted Field Sobriety Tests: Field sobriety tests must follow strict standards, and the results must be thoroughly evaluated. If these tests were not performed or evaluated properly, they can be challenged and excluded as evidence.
  4. The Curve Defense: Blood alcohol levels can continue to rise after you stop drinking. In some cases, it can be successfully argued that you were not over the legal limit while driving and would have been below it by the time you were off the road.

Car parked after first OWI in Wisconsin

First Offense OWI Attorneys in Wisconsin

Grieve Law has received recognition from nationally recognized attorney rating organizations and local publications. Their attorneys specialize in DUI defense, earning the trust of Milwaukee and Wisconsin residents to reduce or drop charges for first DUI offenses.

When your court date approaches, the outcome often hinges on the officer’s testimony versus yours. To increase your chances of getting a first offense DUI in Wisconsin reduced or dropped, it’s essential to hire an attorney who specializes in DUI defense.

Why You Need an Expert OWI Defense Attorney

In Wisconsin, a first offense drunk driving charge is a civil rather than criminal offense. This means that a public defender cannot represent you if you’re fighting a drunk driving charge. To effectively navigate your OWI case, you need to hire an OWI defense attorney.

Should I Get a Lawyer for My First OWI in Wisconsin?

If you’ve been charged with a first DUI in Wisconsin, you may be wondering whether to hire an attorney. It’s a common misconception that hiring a lawyer will be costlier than the DUI itself, but this is often not the case. An experienced DUI defense attorney can potentially reduce fines or even have the entire charge dropped. They can also help you obtain an IID exemption if required. To give yourself the best chance at fighting the charges, it’s crucial to hire an attorney who understands how to handle DUI cases and has a track record of success.

What Happens to First-Time DUI Offenders in Wisconsin?

A first offense OWI in Wisconsin can lead to a 6-9 month driver’s license revocation, fines, AODA assessment, and potentially an IID in your vehicle for one year. However, jail time is typically not a possibility for a first offense OWI if there is no minor in the vehicle, and the OWI did not cause injury or death.

Common Questions About First OWI in Wisconsin

Is OWI a felony in Wisconsin?

OWI can be classified as a felony in Wisconsin under various circumstances. For example, any OWI 4th offense and above is a felony. Additionally, a second offense causing injury and above is a felony, as is any OWI causing homicide.

What is Implied Consent?

Wisconsin is an “implied consent” state, meaning that if you refuse chemical testing of your breath, blood, or urine, you can face additional consequences impacting your driving privileges. It’s essential to consult an attorney if you’re facing implied consent violation charges.

What is an OWI in Wisconsin?

Per Wisconsin State Legislature statute 346.63(1), an OWI occurs when a person drives or operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant, a controlled substance, or any combination thereof, to a degree that renders them incapable of safe driving. It also includes driving with a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in the blood or having a prohibited alcohol concentration.

What is the difference between a DUI and an OWI?

In Wisconsin, there is no difference between a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and an OWI (Operating While Intoxicated). Different states use various terms to describe similar charges or minor variations. Wisconsin predominantly uses OWI.

Is a first OWI a misdemeanor in Wisconsin?

Usually, a first OWI in Wisconsin is a civil offense. However, if there was a minor passenger (under 16) in your vehicle, it becomes a criminal misdemeanor offense.

For more detailed information about the criminal process and laws related to OWI in Wisconsin, check out this resource. Additionally, you can access the circuit court to see the specific charges against you here.

If you’re facing a first OWI charge in Wisconsin, it’s crucial to seek legal representation promptly. Contact Attorney King Tse at Dahlberg Law Group for expert guidance and support in minimizing the impact of your OWI on your life and future. Don’t face these serious charges alone.