What are the penalties for a first-time OWI in Wisconsin?

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2021 | Owi

If an officer stops and arrests you for operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may, understandably, worry about the associated penalties. In most cases, a first-time OWI conviction results in fines and license revocation.

The exact consequences of a conviction depend on several factors, though. Nolo briefly explains both the criminal consequences and administrative penalties associated with a first-time DUI offense.

Criminal penalties

If a judge convicts you of the crime of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she may use his or her discretion to impose fines, sentence jail time and order treatment within given parameters. Those parameters are as follows:

  • Fines: First-time OWI offenders must generally pay between $150 to $300 dollars in fines. However, the minimum fines double for drivers whose BACs were between .17% and .199%, triple for drivers whose BACs were between .20% and .249%, and quadruple for drivers with BACs of .25% or higher. If the driver had a person under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, the fine can soar to $1,100.
  • Jail Time: Most first-time OWI offenders do not receive jail time. However, if the driver had a child passenger in the vehicle at the time of the offense, the driver must serve a minimum of five days and a maximum of six months in jail.
  • Treatment: Per Wisconsin law, all first-time offenders must undergo a substance abuse assessment, the result of which the courts will use to determine a treatment plan going forward.

Administrative penalties

In addition to criminal penalties, the judge must dole out administrative penalties. Administrative penalties typically entail license revocation or suspension.

If this is your first OWI conviction, the judge may suspend your license for between six and nine months. However, if you had a child passenger in the vehicle at the time of the offense, the revocation period doubles.

Though license revocation is mandatory, the judge may grant you a hardship license, which allows you to operate your vehicle for the purposes of getting to and from school, work or treatment. If your BAC was .15% or higher at the time of your stop, the judge must also order that you use an ignition interlock device for at least one year.

The criminal and administrative penalties of a conviction are just the tip of the iceberg. An OWI conviction can hurt your reputation and future, which is why the best thing for you to do is partner with a lawyer and fight the charges you face.

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