Drinking and driving is a dangerous act, and in Wisconsin, it can result in severe consequences. Those who operate motor vehicles after drinking alcohol or using drugs could potentially be pulled over and arrested, and they may be charged with the offense of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). While a single OWI charge is serious enough, multiple arrests or convictions for drunk driving will result in more severe charges. Drivers should be aware of when they could be charged with a felony due to multiple OWI convictions on their record, and they will also need to understand the penalties that will apply if they are convicted on felony OWI charges.
Felony Charges for Multiple OWI Offenses
In general, felony charges will not apply if a person is convicted of OWI a first, second, or third time. For additional OWI arrests and in certain other situations, a person will likely face felony charges, and a conviction will result in harsh penalties. OWI charges are aggravated when the driver causes injury to someone, including a passenger of their own vehicle, or if the vehicle contains any passengers under the age of 16. OWI may be charged as a felony in the following situations:
Fourth OWI offense – If a person has three previous OWI convictions, a subsequent OWI offense is a Class H felony. Most of the time, a person who is convicted will be sentenced to between 2 months and 6 years imprisonment and will be fined between $600 and $10,000. The presence of a minor passenger increases the range of imprisonment to between 3 months and 12 years and doubles the fine.
Fifth or sixth OWI offense – These cases are charged as Class G felonies. The sentence ranges from 1 to 10 years imprisonment, and the fine ranges from $600 to $25,000. The presence of a minor in the vehicle increases the maximum penalty to 20 years and doubles the fine.
Seventh, eighth, or ninth OWI offense – These cases are charged as Class G felonies. The sentence ranges from 3 to 12.5 years imprisonment, and the maximum fine is $25,000. The presence of a minor in the vehicle doubles both the minimum and maximum penalty and doubles the maximum fine.
Tenth OWI offense or any subsequent OWI offenses – This is a Class E felony, and a sentence between 4 and 15 years will be imposed. The presence of a minor in the vehicle doubles both the minimum and maximum penalty and doubles the maximum fine.
Second or subsequent OWI resulting in injury – Anyone who has a prior OWI conviction and causes injury to another person by the operation of a vehicle while intoxicated is guilty of a Class H felony. The maximum penalty is 6 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000. The presence of a minor in the vehicle doubles the maximum penalty and the maximum fine.
OWI resulting in great bodily harm – Any OWI offense that results in severe injuries that put someone’s life at risk or caused disability or disfigurement faces a Class F felony regardless of the number of previous OWI convictions. In these cases, a person may be sentenced to up to 12 and a half years and fined up to $25,000.
OWI resulting in death –Homicide by intoxicated use of vehicle is a Class D felony even if it is the driver’s first OWI offense. A person convicted of this offense may be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison and fined up to $100,000.
Contact Our Milwaukee, WI Felony OWI Defense Lawyers
A third or subsequent OWI arrest or a case involving injuries is likely to lead to felony charges. Anyone who is in this situation will need to understand their options for defense, and they can do so with the help of a skilled Milwaukee OWI defense attorney. At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP, we provide representation for people who have been charged with felonies and others who have been arrested for drunk driving, and we work to help our clients resolve their cases successfully. Contact us at 414-271-1440 to set up a consultation and get the legal help you need as you defend against OWI charges.