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What happens when you get a DUI in Wisconsin?

Here's what you need to know...
  • Wisconsin has different intoxication levels for adult drivers, operators under the age of 21, and commercial drivers
  • Fines and jail time typically increase with OWI charge
  • OWI charges typically come with fines, jail time, the required use of an IID, license suspension, and six points on your license

Getting a DUI can certainly be upsetting and stressful, and the ramifications may be with you for quite some time. In addition to the fines and possible jail time, you may also find that it’s harder to get insurance at a reasonable price.

If you’re moving to Wisconsin, then it’s important for you to know more about the local DUI laws.

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What is DUI?

In Wisconsin, it’s called Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), and it’s more than just a ticket. The real costs of conviction can be extremely high when you consider the cost of an ignition interlock device, license suspensions, reinstatement fees, and the future cost of insurance with an SR-22 certificate.

– Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Levels

The state has established clear guidelines for determining intoxication. Drivers under the age of 21, people over 21, and commercial drivers all have different BAC limit levels:

  • Drivers below the drinking age must be below .02 percent
  • Adult drivers of legal drinking age must be below .08 percent
  • Commercial drivers are limited to a BAC level of .04 percent

– Driving with Open Containers of Alcohol

It’s illegal to drive with an open container in the main cabin of the vehicle. This includes partially consumed containers and bottles from restaurants.

Simply having a bottle with a broken seal can be enough to lead to an OWI arrest, even if it appears that nothing from the bottle has been consumed. The containers may not be within reach of the driver or passengers. Wisconsin is also very specific that an open container in the glove box is illegal and can result in an OWI ticket.

– Breathalyzer Tests

Wisconsin is an implied consent state, so drivers suspected of driving under the influence are expected to comply with a test. According to the law, you’re required to comply with officers who ask for chemical tests of your blood, urine, or breath.

It’s important to note that the car does not have to be moving for you to be guilty of OWI in the state of Wisconsin.

The law is written in such a way that you only need to have the power of making the car move. This means that if you’re in the driver’s seat of a parked car while the vehicle is running, then you are at risk for a ticket.

Under the implied consent law, the tests must be administered as soon as possible after an arrest. If you refuse to take the test, then you’ll face specific penalties in addition to an OWI charge.

Typically, you’ll lose your license for a year, and the suspension time increases with each offense.

OWI Penalties


Wisconsin has established specific consequences for OWI offenses, and they grow more severe with each offense.

  • First offense – Fines of $150 to $300, license revocation of six to nine months. If the BAC is over 0.15, then an IID will be required for one year
  • Second offense with no prior within 10 years – Same as for first offense
  • Second offense with a prior within 10 years – Fines of $350 to $1,000 and license revocation of 12 to 18 months. Jail time of five days to six months with the option for the Safe Streets program. IID will be required for one year to 18 months.
  • Third offense – Fines of $600 to $2,000 and jail time of 45 days to one year. License revocation of two to three years with an IID required for one to three years.
  • Fourth offense with another OWI in the last five years – Fines of $600 to $10,000 and two- to three-year license revocation. IID will be required for one to three years. This is a class H felony carrying jail time of six months to six years.
  • Fifth and sixth offense – Same as the fourth offense with prior in the last five years
  • Seventh, eighth, or ninth offense – The fines can rise up to $25,000 and it is a class G felony carrying a jail sentence of three to ten years. The licensed will be revoked for two to three years, and the IID will be required for one to three years.
  • Tenth offense or more – The major difference with the 10th OWI is that it rises to a Class F felony with a possible jail term of 4 to 12.5 years. Fines, license revocation, and IID requirement are similar to the 9th offense.
  • Causing injury while OWI – This is automatically a Class H felony and carries fines of up to $10,000.
  • Homicide while OWI – A class D felony, it carries jail time of up to 24 years and fines of up to $100,000. Additionally, the license revocation will be five years plus the assigned jail time, and the IID will be required for the first one to two years that the individual is back on the road.

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Points System

Wisconsin uses a points system to track poor driving habits and OWI convictions. Demerits can accrue on your record, and your license will be suspended when you reach a certain level in a specific time period.

If you’re on a probationary license or instructional permit, you’ll receive a six-month suspension after accruing 12 to 30 points. If you build up more than 30 points, then you’ll lose your license for a year.

All drivers with regular licenses will be subject to the following:

  • A two-month suspension after 12 to 16 points is assessed
  • A four-month suspension after 17 to 22 points is assessed
  • A six-month suspension after 23 to 30 points is assessed
  • A one-year suspension when 30 points are accumulated

OWI is one of the most serious offenses and carries six points. However, the points may be reduced by taking an approved traffic safety course.

After successfully completing the class, you can receive a single three-point reduction in a three-year period. Points expire after one year for the purposes of license suspensions, but they can remain on your record.

Reinstated a Suspended Driver’s License

There are several offenses that can result in the loss of your license. The court can order a suspension as can the Ministry of Transportation. Typically, it comes as a result of OWI offenses, failure to pay traffic fines, accruing too many points, or refusing to comply with a sobriety test.

You will be eligible for reinstatement after all fines and other associated fees and costs have been paid, and you have waited through the full suspension period.

You may be able to process the application online to have your privileges restored and get back on the road. You’ll receive a receipt that you can use until you can get to the DMV to have a new license made.

Insuring an OWI Offender

As a person with a record for driving while intoxicated, finding insurance may be challenging. You may have to look for a company that insures high-risk drivers, and you can expect to pay higher rates until you establish a clean driving record again.

You can put preventive tools in place to show the insurance company that you’re committed to staying sober behind the wheel.

These include tracking devices that record your driving patterns and an ignition interlock device. Some companies may provide you with special discounts for taking these measures.

Before you sign up for an insurance policy, remember that you can shop around even if you have an OWI on your record.

You may qualify for discounts, and it may be easier to get a break from recent good driving habits if you’re changing providers. Use a comparison tool to easily look at different companies so that you can find a plan that suits your needs and budget.

Enter your zip code below to compare car insurance rates from multiple companies in Wisconsin!

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