Potential OWI Penalties for Wisconsin College Students

Out-of-state students attending Wisconsin colleges may not know that a charge of "driving under the influence" (DUI) is referred to in the Badger State as "operating while intoxicated" (OWI). No matter the acronym, it is a serious offense.

Absolute Sobriety

Under Wisconsin law, anyone whose blood alcohol content (BAC) level is above 0.08 percent while operating a motor vehicle can be charged with an OWI. However, for those under the state's legal drinking age of 21, the Absolute Sobriety law is in effect. That makes it illegal for underage drinkers to have any level of alcohol in their system when behind the wheel. Under Absolute Sobriety, the underage driver is arrested and must submit to a blood, urine or breath test to determine the level of alcohol in the system. The minimum fine is currently $389.50, along with a minimum 90-day suspension of driving privileges, and four points on the driver's Wisconsin license.

21 and Over

College students of legal drinking age convicted of a first OWI offense face fines of up to $300 and license suspension for up to nine months.

Occupational driver's licenses, allowing students to drive to and from home, school and work but nowhere else, are available.

Interlock Devices

If a college student refuses a blood, urine or breath test, or is convicted of having a BAC above 0.15 percent, Wisconsin law mandates the installation of an interlock device on his or her vehicle's ignition for up to one year. The device measures the driver's breath before they start the vehicle. If it detects alcohol, the ignition does not start. During every trip, the device signals requirements for additional breath tests, to make sure the driver did not drink alcohol after starting the vehicle.

Not Just Cars

Under Wisconsin law, OWI extends to all types of motor vehicles. A person is potentially liable for OWI charges if found with an elevated BAC while operating various types of motorized vehicles, including:

  • All-terrain vehicles
  • Boats
  • Snowmobiles

Long-Term Consequences

College students are preparing for their professional lives, choosing majors to focus on future careers. An OWI conviction can have serious long-term consequences. Students might face the loss of scholarships and financial aid and have issues regarding employment. Insurance rates may skyrocket for years to come, affecting the ability to afford transportation once driving privileges are restored.

Contact an Attorney

If you or your child has been arrested for an OWI, you need the services of a skilled defense lawyer. The right legal representation makes all the difference in a student OWI case. Call our firm today for a free consultation. We'll review your case and help you decide on how to proceed.

Sources: http://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/safety/education/drunk-drv/ddoffenses.aspx, https://www.uwplatt.edu/files/police/absolutesobriety.pdf

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