Wisconsin is the only state in the country that does not consider first-time OWI offenses as criminal offenses. Instead, first-time OWI offenders receive tickets and pay fines. If this is your first time being apprehended for drunk driving, you should take your situation seriously. You should not get behind the wheel and drive after drinking again. If you do, you could find yourself facing criminal charges and some hefty penalties.
Here are the penalties you face if you receive an OWI conviction.
Treatment and higher insurance rates
A first-time conviction means you will need to complete an Alcohol and Other Drug Assessment. Depending on the outcome of your assessment, officials may order you to undergo treatment and install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. Your insurance rates will increase because you have an OWI conviction that requires you to purchase SR-22 insurance. You could end up with higher auto insurance rates for many years.
Imprisonment and loss of employment
You could go to jail. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your situation, you may receive a jail sentence, even if it is your first offense. If it is your second or third offense, you will have to pay more fines, restitution and other costs. You may also end up with criminal charges and face up to several years behind bars. If you end up going to jail because of your conviction, you could lose your job. You may also have trouble securing employment and maintaining and obtaining professional certifications and licenses in the future.
Stiffer sentences for repeat offenders
Fourth-time OWI offenses are now felonies. The penalties for fourth-time offenders include incarceration, restitution, court-ordered drug and alcohol treatment, and driver’s license suspension. Incarceration sentences for fourth-time offenders range from 60 days to six years. Any OWI conviction you receive after your fourth offense can result in you going to jail for five to 10 years. This is in addition to the suspension of your driver’s license and court-ordered fines and penalties.
Regardless of the number of OWI convictions you have, if you are currently charged with an OWI, you should speak to an attorney about your situation to learn your options.