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What is an OWI?

Many Eau Claire Metro Area, Menomonie, Central Wisconsin, Chippewa Valley residents assume the terms OWI (operating while impaired) and DUI (driving under the influence) are interchangeable. Though both offenses involve alcohol, there are some significant distinctions between them. Each carries strict penalties that could irrevocably change your life. 

In Wisconsin, it is not a crime to consume alcohol. It becomes an OWI crime when you get inside your car or are in control of a vehicle. One clear difference between an OWI and DUI is you do not have to drive or be in the driver’s seat to get an OWI. You do not have to be in a car, SUV or truck to end up in trouble with the law. 

The consequences of an OWI and DUI 

OWIs do not just apply to cars, SUVs and trucks. Being in control of motorized equipment and recreational vehicles like boats, motorcycles, ATVs and snowmobiles can also end in you receiving an OWI charge. Unlike an OWI, law enforcement officers give DUIs when an intoxicated or visibly impaired person operates a vehicle, endangering public safety. The penalties for both types of offense are severe. An OWI conviction can result in the temporary restriction of driving privileges, mandatory drug and assessment screening, fines, the installation of an interlock ignition device, higher insurance premiums, jail or prison time and a host of personal/professional/economic challenges. 

Most DUI and OWI cases are complex and can be challenging for alleged offenders to manage without proper legal representation, especially if there are additional criminal charges. If you face an OWI or DUI charge, take immediate action to learn your legal options. Keep in mind that criminal charges are not an automatic conviction. Depending on the circumstances and your defense, it may be possible to have the charges reduced or dropped.

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