By Attorney Brianna Meyer

As is true in all 50 states, driving drunk is illegal and has severe consequences. Not only do drivers put themselves at risk, but they can also endanger the passengers in their car, pedestrians, and people in other vehicles. In Wisconsin, it is illegal for a driver who is at least 21 years old to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or greater. Drivers are also prohibited from driving while under the influence of intoxicants, with any detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in their bloodstream, and/or while they are under the influence of controlled substances or other drugs. Those below the age of 21 must have complete sobriety when driving or operating a vehicle.


In many states, the abbreviation DUI is used to refer to the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances. However, Wisconsin law refers to this offense as Operating While Intoxicated, or OWI. The Wisconsin statutes consider the “physical manipulation or activation of any of the controls of a motor vehicle necessary to put it in motion” as operating a vehicle.  Sec. 346.63(3)(b), Stats. OWI charges do not necessarily require the actual movement of the car, but rather, actions that could do so. For instance, an intoxicated individual who is sitting in the front seat of a stationary but running car could potentially be charged with OWI. 

What Are the Penalties for Such an Offense?

The penalties for OWIs are serious and get progressively more restrictive as the number of charges increases. The following are the legal consequences for first four offenses for those ages 21 and up convicted of drunk driving. If a person is charged with OWI, they will be required to pay an OWI surcharge in addition to any fines listed and in some cases, the court will require the installation of an interlock ignition device (“IID”) in the driver’s vehicle, which comes with additional costs. 

  • First offense and second offense (with no prior OWI within the last 10 years): $150-$300 fine and a six to nine month driver’s license revocation;
  • Second offense (with prior OWI in the last 10 years): $350-$1,100 fine, up to six months in jail, and a 12-18 month driver’s license revocation.
  • Third offense: $600-$2,000 fine, up to one year in jail, and a 12-18 month driver’s license revocation.
  • Fourth offense: $600-$10,000 fine, up to six years in jail, and a two to three year driver’s license revocation.

Contact a Milwaukee, WI DUI/OWI Attorney 

OWI charges are serious in Wisconsin, and they can have a massive impact on your life. Not only will you face significant criminal charges and lose your ability to drive, but you may also have to serve time in prison. At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP, we have over 50 years of experience defending people charged with OWI and other criminal offenses throughout the state of Wisconsin. If you have been charged with OWI, contact our experienced Milwaukee OWI defense lawyers at [[phone]] to set up a consultation.





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