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Things to know about Wisconsin's new OWI laws

Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence is a dangerous criminal offense, and therefore comes with strict penalties. New Wisconsin laws increase those penalties.

If someone faces an OWI charge, it is important to understand all that this entails, including the potentially harsher outcomes that the new legislation has put into place.

Different from DUI

Some individuals may be under the false impression that a DUI and an OWI charge are the same. Though both charges involving motor vehicles and intoxication, the scope of the charges is different. In the case of a DUI, an individual must be actually operating a motor vehicle to be guilty. In the case of an OWI, an individual must only be in charge of a part of the vehicle that is needed for its operation. For instance, if law enforcement finds an individual who is in the driver's seat of a parked vehicle to be under the influence, the individual may face an OWI but not a DUI.

Penalty range

The new OWI laws increase the penalty for an OWI conviction. When individuals receive their first OWI, they face minimal penalties, including fines of up to $300 and a license revocation up to nine months. However, the fines and revocation increase with the second and third conviction, and include jail time. With the new law, the fourth charge results in a felony conviction, which can lead to a fine of up to $10,000, six years in prison, and a three-year license revocation. The penalties increase with any additional charges after the fourth, up to the tenth conviction, which holds a 15-year conviction, with a minimum of four years.

By taking some time to understand the aspects of an OWI, individuals may decide the best options for their case moving forward. It may also be beneficial to consult with a knowledgeable attorney.


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