Wisconsin DUI Laws

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Wisconsin OWI laws (also known as DUI laws) state that any driver over the age of 21 cannot be under the influence of alcohol or drugs and/or have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Commercial drivers cannot exceed 0.04%, and minors cannot exceed 0.00%.
More than 10,000 people are killed on the road every year due to drunk driving crashes in the U.S.
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a dangerous crime, and penalties will vary by state. Even for a first-time offense, drivers will shell out up to $10,000 in fines and legal fees—and it will definitely affect your car insurance rates as well.
That’s why the car insurance comparison and broker app Jerry has compiled everything you need to know about OWI laws in Wisconsin.
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What is an OWI?

An OWI means operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and an OUI refers to operating under the influence.
In many states, the charges are DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated or impaired).
Each state determines the difference between these charges, but Wisconsin uses "OWI" in its state laws.
An OWI charge could mean that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even if the drugs weren’t illegal—you can get an OWI charge from prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs if they make you impaired.

OWI in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, it is illegal to operate a vehicle if you are "under the influence" of a drug, controlled substance, or intoxicant. In this case, being "under the influence" means that you are incapable of operating a vehicle safely.
It is also illegal to operate a vehicle if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of:
  • 0.08% or higher if you’re 21 or older
  • 0.04% or higher if you’re a commercial driver
  • 0.02% or higher if you have three or more prior OWI convictions on your record
  • 0.00% or higher if you’re under the age of 21
You can also be convicted of an OWI for operating a vehicle with any trace of a restricted controlled substance in your blood, even if it doesn’t impair your ability to drive.
Like every state, Wisconsin has an implied consent law, which stipulates that drivers consent to be tested if they are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
If you are lawfully arrested for an OWI, you must submit to a breath, blood, or urine test.
If you refuse testing, the DMV will revoke your license for one to three years, and you’ll have to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle.

Penalties for OWI in Wisconsin

If you are convicted of an OWI in Wisconsin, you will be required to complete a drug and alcohol evaluation, as well as a treatment program.
You will also have to pay a fine and possibly serve jail time, perform community service, and/or be put on probation.
Penalties are primarily determined by the number of prior OWI offenses on your record.
If you were transporting a passenger under 16 years old, your fine, jail sentence, and license suspension period will all be doubled.
Penalties are also more severe for drivers with an excessive BAC level. If your BAC level exceeded:
  • 0.17%, your fines will be doubled
  • 0.20%, your fines will be tripled
  • 0.25%, your fines will be quadrupled
OWI convictions in Wisconsin remain on your record for 10 years.

First offense

PenaltyDescription
Fine$150 to $300
JailNone
License suspension6 to 9 months
SR-22 requirementYes

Second offense

PenaltyDescription
Fine$350 to $1,100
JailUp to 6 months
License suspension12 to 18 months
Community service30 days (instead of jail time)
Ignition interlock device (IID)1 year
SR-22 requirementYes

Third offense

PenaltyDescription
Fine$600 to $2,000
JailUp to 1 year
License suspension2 to 3 years
Ignition interlock device (IID)1 year
SR-22 requirementYes

Subsequent offenses

A fourth or subsequent OWI offense will be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony in Wisconsin unless the last prior offense was over 5 years ago.
PenaltyDescription
Fine$600 to $10,000
Jail1 to 6 years
License suspension2 to 3 years
Ignition interlock device (IID)1 year
SR-22 requirementYes

Underage OWI penalties

For drivers under 21 years old with a BAC between 0.00% and 0.08%, the following penalties apply:
PenaltyDescription
Fine$200
License suspension3 months

Hardship licenses

If your license is suspended for an OWI conviction, a judge might grant you a hardship license if you have a demonstrated need to keep driving (i.e. to work or to school). You will be required to install an IID for at least one year after receiving a hardship license.
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Does an OWI impact car insurance in Wisconsin?

Yes. Insurance companies take OWI convictions very seriously, and you’ll be classified as a high-risk driver going forward. This means that your auto insurance rates will increase.
Jerry can quickly compare rates from up to 50 top insurers so that you don’t have to spend time completing online forms and dealing with sales calls.
Additionally, your insurance company will have to submit an SR-22 filing on your behalf to certify that you meet Wisconsin’s insurance requirements.
Key Takeaway It can be hard to find affordable insurance with an OWI on your record, so you’ll probably need to look at a number of different providers to find the right policy.

Other effects of an OWI

Besides conviction penalties and higher insurance rates, OWIs can impact your life in other ways.
License suspension: After getting an OWI, you will have your license suspended for at least six months.
Ignition interlock device (IID): These devices stop you from starting your car if you have any alcohol on your breath. If you get an OWI in Wisconsin, you will be required to install an IID on your vehicle for at least one year after your license is reinstated.
Background checks: OWIs appear on background checks, which could hurt your job prospects in the future.
Demerit points: If you are convicted of an OWI in Wisconsin, you will receive six demerit points on your driving record. A higher number of demerit points can lead to harsher penalties for other moving violations, like making an illegal turn or texting while driving.

How to find cheap insurance after an OWI

Jerry is the easiest and most effective way to find a car insurance policy that is customized for you.
After providing you with a comprehensive cross-analysis of the best policies across providers, Jerry will handle the phone calls, paperwork, and renewals for your top pick so that you don’t have to. They even help cancel your old policy!
Why do all that extra work when Jerry can do it better?
"When using Jerry, I was impressed at how their representative took care of my situation. He was so knowledgeable about my state’s insurance laws!" ––Rabi B.
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