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Driving under influence (DUI/DWI) in WI is a serious offence. Understand the implications, your rights the hearing process and legal counsel

Operating under influence (OUI) or operating while intoxicated/impaired (OWI) as it is called in Wisconsin is an offense committed when a driver operates a vehicle after the consumption of alcohol or drugs or other intoxicants. Increased alcohol levels in the driver’s blood lead to diminished mental and motor reactions which, in turn, reduce the driver’s ability to control the vehicle. This significantly increases the risk of the driver committing errors of judgment and often results in accidents causing severe injuries and even death.

In Wisconsin, as in the rest of the US, drunk driving is the single largest cause of motor vehicle related fatalities and accounts for an alarmingly high 40% to 50% of the total number of motor vehicle related deaths every year. A major concern to the state of Wisconsin is that it has one of the highest rates of drunken driving in the country.

REGULATIONS FOR OUI/OWI IN WISCONSIN

In Wisconsin, the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit is set at 0.08% for drivers over 21 years of age for the first two offenses and a lower limit of 0.02% subsequently. It is set at 0.0% for those under 21. Any detectable quantity of alcohol in the breath or blood of a driver below 21 is a punishable offense. Regardless of age, any detectable quantity of a banned substance in the blood constitutes OWI. So does driving while under the influence of any drug including over-the counter and prescribed medications. For commercial drivers, the limit is set at 0.04%.

Having a Wisconsin license automatically provides your consent to be tested if stopped by a law enforcement officer, while driving. This is the law of “implied consent” and can be used by the officer to test you if you are stopped on the suspicion of drunk driving, either through a breathalyser test or by an actual blood test to check the BAC. Refusing to take the chemical test will result in your license being revoked.

Points will be added to your driving record and your license will be suspended or revoked, if you convicted of DUI/DWI. The number of points assessed, depend on the severity of the offense and the number of times you have been convicted for it.

ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR DRIVERS OVER 21:

If you are over 21 years old, and are caught with BAC higher than the set limit of 0.08%, you may be subjected to criminal actions in addition to administrative actions. If the DUI/DWI incident you are involved in is subjected to criminal action, it is recommended that you get in touch with a DUI/DWI lawyer as they are experts at handling such incidents and can offer you the best advice.

  1. The first offense is not subject to imprisonment but entails a $150-300 fine plus an additional surcharge of $365. Also, if convicted for a first offense BAC or OWI (BAC over 0.08%):
    • 6 points will be added to your driving record.
    • Your license will be revoked for 6-9 months.
    • You may be immediately eligible for an Occupational License which allows you to drive to work and back.
    • You may also be required to undergo an assessment.
  2. The second offense or two offenses in five years and will result in imprisonment for five days to six months and a $350-1100 fine plus an additional surcharge of $365. Thirty days of community service may be imposed in lieu of incarceration. Also, if convicted for the second offense of DWI, DUID or BAC:
    • 6 points will be added to your driving record.
    • Your license will be revoked for 12-18 months.
    • Your vehicle will also be required to be fitted with an ignition interlock device or be immobilized.
    • You will be eligible for an occupational license only after 60 days (12 months if two or more offenses were detected within two years).
    • You may also be required to undergo an assessment.
  3. The third offense results in imprisonment for 30 days to one year and a $600-2000 fine plus an additional surcharge of $365. Also, if convicted for the third offense:
  4. 6 points will be added to your driving record.
  5. Your license will be revoked for 2-3 years.
  6. You will be eligible for an occupational license only after 60 days (12 months if two or more offenses were detected within two years).
  7. Your vehicle will also be required to be fitted with an ignition interlock device or be immobilized or even seized.
  8. You may also be required to undergo an assessment
  9. The fourth offense will result in imprisonment for 60 days to one year and a $600-2000 fine plus an additional surcharge of $365. Also, if convicted for the fourth offense of DWI, DUID or BAC:
  10. 6 points will be added to your driving record.
  11. Your license will be revoked for 2-3 years.
  12. You will be eligible for an occupational license only after 60 days (12 months if two or more offenses were detected within two years).
  13. Your vehicle will also be required to be fitted with an ignition interlock device or be immobilized or even seized.
  14. You may also be required to undergo an assessment.
  15. The fifth or sixth offense (“chronic offender”) is will result in imprisonment between six months and six years and a fine of $600-10000 plus an additional surcharge of $365. Also, if convicted for the fifth or subsequent offenses of DWI, DUID or BAC:
  16. 6 points will be added to your driving record.
  17. Your license will be revoked for 2-3 years.
  18. You will be eligible for an occupational license only after 60 days (12 months if two or more offenses were detected within two years).
  19. Your vehicle will also be required to be fitted with an ignition interlock device or be immobilized or even seized.
  20. You may also be required to undergo an assessment.
  21. The penalties continue to rise to a maximum of twelve and a half years imprisonment and a fine of up to $25000 for the tenth and subsequent offenses.

ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR DRIVERS UNDER 21

  1. A driver below 21 testing positive for any detectable level of alcohol will be fined $200 and a three month license suspension. They will, however be eligible for an occupational license immediately.
  2. Apart from these actions, penalties mentioned above for drivers over 21, may also apply to minors if they are convicted of OUI/OWI.

ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR COMMERCIAL VEHICLE DRIVERS

If you drive a commercial vehicle and hold a commercial driver license (CDL):

  1. Any measurable blood alcohol calls for a fine and 24 hours out of service with license seizure.
  2. The first offense with a BAC between 0.04% and 0.08% entails$150-300 forfeiture, 1 year disqualification (three years if carrying hazardous material at the time of the violation) with license seizure for 24 hours. One can obtain a class D/M occupational license after 15 days.
  3. A second offense will result in lifelong disqualification together with 5 days to 6 months in jail and a fine of $300-1000.
  4. Apart from these actions, penalties mentioned above for drivers over 21, may also apply to commercial drivers for their first and second offenses of OUI/OWI. The other penalties do not apply since they are barred after the second offense.
  5. There are additional penalties if death or injury is caused while Operating Under the Influence.

ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI:

In addition to the criminal penalties such as imprisonment and fines, the state DMV also resorts to administrative measures against drunk drivers. This consists mainly of the suspension, revocation or restriction of driving privileges for the terms detailed in the earlier section.
Restriction in driving privileges consists of issuance of an Occupational License for the period of suspension or revocation beginning immediately (in case of the first offense) or after a waiting period specific to the number of prior offenses in a given period and the gravity of the offense. The Occupational license allows you to drive to work, church and certain other essential activities for a maximum number of hours in a day and a week. You may not drive for any recreational trip. Failure to comply with these conditions is tantamount to driving with a revoked or suspended license, a serious offense. Issuance of an Occupational License is not automatic and the DMV may deny you such a license if you have three OWI offenses in a year. In such an event, you can petition the circuit court in your county of residence for an occupational license after the waiting period is over.

LICENSE REINSTATEMENT AFTER DUI/DWI SUSPENSION/REVOCATION:

If you are convicted of DUI/DWI, it will result in your license being suspended or revoked. This means that your driving privileges will be taken away and you will need to apply for a reinstatement of your license with the DMV, once the period of suspension or revocation is over. Reinstating a license after a suspension of a year, or revocation will also mean taking the driving tests all over again. These will include the vision test, knowledge test and the road test. If you do not complete the reinstatement requirements, the license will remain suspended or revoked.

  1. After completing the reinstatement requirements, pay the reinstatement fee of $50, and maintain proof of financial responsibility by filing SR-22, if required.
  2. If you are being convicted for a second time, it is mandatory for the court to order an ignition interlock device to be placed for breathalyser tests on any vehicle you drive.
  3. You can submit the reinstatement application and fees in person at :
    Wisconsin Department of Transportation
    Driver Information Section
    8417 Excelsior Dr.
    Madison, WI 53717

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

  • DUI/DWI has been a major cause of death and injury in our nation and it is our duty to prevent such needless pain and suffering. Simply: If you drink, DON’T DRIVE! If we all follow this rule to the letter – thousands of lives will be saved each year.
  • If you have been charged with a DUI/DWI get help from a DUI/DWI Lawyer.
  • See also Suspended License, Point System and Traffic Ticket Lawyers.

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