If you've been arrested for driving under the influence in Wisconsin, you might be charged with additional criminal offenses you hadn't expected.

Wisconsin OWI law does not generalize all drunk driving cases into one standard set of penalties. Although you might first associate repeated drunk driving offenses with additional or more severe punishments, there are in fact a wide range of circumstances that could place someone charged with OWI in more trouble.

There are a number of situations and factors which could result in you facing additional charges during an OWI stop in Wisconsin. Keep reading to learn more about these situations and their associated penalties.

Read Also: Checklist: What to Do if You're Pulled Over for OWI in Wisconsin

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Operating with a Prohibited Alcohol Concentration (PAC) in Wisconsin

First, it's important to address an additional charge that usually comes with an OWI: operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration, or PAC.

If you think about it, the coupling of these two charges seems pretty logical. If you're operating under the influence of an intoxicant in Wisconsin, and that intoxicant is alcohol, then the PAC charge seems automatic. If you choose to submit to field sobriety testing or a roadside breathalyzer test, it is likely you will also face a PAC charge if you are arrested for OWI.

However, it's important to remember that unless you have a commercial drivers license, you don't have to take sobriety tests in the field under Wisconsin law.


Watch: Can You Refuse Field Sobriety Tests in Wisconsin?

Understanding the Reasons for Enhanced OWI Charges in Wisconsin

Wisconsin's stance on drunk driving charges has become more strict in recent years. In addition to the adoption of more severe penalties for repeat OWI offenses in 2016, the following factors can increase the potential charges and penalties you could face if convicted of OWI.

1. OWI With A Passenger Under 16 Years Of Age

When charged with OWI while a passenger under 16 is present in the vehicle, additional penalties can be incurred due to child endangerment.

In Wisconsin, this translates to a doubling of both minimum and maximum penalties for the driver. This may be the simplest of the enhanced penalty qualifiers.

Read Also: OWI With Minor Passenger in Wisconsin: A Beginner's Guide

2. Additional Penalties For Exceedingly High Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Readings

As with the presence of a child in the vehicle, penalties are first doubled, tripled, and then quadrupled for drivers whose BAC is of an exceptionally high nature. The three brackets of severity are determined by specific ranges of BAC readings.

• BAC of .17 to .199

Anyone found with a BAC falling within this range will receive double the original penalties.

• BAC of .20 to .249

Those falling within this range will receive triple the original penalties.

• BAC of .25 or higher

Falling within this highest range will result in a quadrupling of the original penalties.

It is important to note that the “original” penalties which are doubled, tripled, or quadrupled include those automatically incurred through repeat offenses. For example, if a second-time OWI offender was found to be driving with a BAC of .17, the second-time penalty of $350 to $1,000 and five days to six months in prison would be doubled to 10 days to 12 months in prison and $700 to $2,000 in fines.

3. Circumventing Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs)

An ignition interlock device is a mandatory mechanism used in cases of multiple OWI convictions. It’s also mandatory for those who refuse chemical tests during suspected OWI infractions as well as for first time offenders whose BAC is 0.15 or higher.

In essence, these devices act as a kind of alternative vehicle key. The ignition can only be activated by the driver blowing into the IID which then takes a BAC reading. A reading of .02 or above will prevent the driver from starting the vehicle. The driver is also required to use the device at random intervals while driving to ensure that they remain sober.

If someone refuses to comply with the court order of IID installation, a six-month extension to the IID requirement will be added. Jail time, additional fines, or a combination of both can also be levied by the court with fines ranging from $150 to $600 with up to six months of jail time possible.

These specific penalties are also levied against those who can be shown to have circumvented or disconnected the device by using breath samples from other people or manipulating breath samples to skew an authentic reading.

Read Also: 4 Things to Know About Ignition Interlock Devices and Wisconsin OWI

4. Commercial Drivers

First-time offenders found to be operating a commercial vehicle while intoxicated will be subject to disqualification from commercial driving for one year in addition to other penalties for first-time offenders. Commercial drivers convicted of OWI while transporting hazardous materials will face three years of commercial disqualification.

Committing a second OWI offense while operating a commercial vehicle or otherwise will result in a lifetime revocation of a commercial driving license. However, this restriction is subject to a 10-year reduction under some circumstances.

Read Also: Wisconsin Drunk Driving Laws and CDL

5. Drivers Under 21 Years Of Age

With a legal drinking age of 21 in Wisconsin, underage drivers found with any percentage of alcohol in their blood, (up to .08 percent) will have their driving privileges suspended. First-time offenders face a 90-day suspension which can be supplemented with an occupational license equipped with an ignition interlock device.

Read Also: What You Need to Know About Underage OWI in Wisconsin

FREE Wisconsin OWI Defense Consultation

Nationally-recognized OWI Defense Attorney Patrick J. Stangl has over 32 years of experience protecting the rights of clients accused of OWI across Wisconsin. With offices in Madison and Hayward, he is able to offer DUI defense anywhere in the state.

If you're facing OWI charges in Wisconsin, including drug charges or repeat OWI charges, Attorney Stangl is happy to provide to you at no obligation a FREE 10-minute consultation to discuss your drunk driving or driving under the influence case and help explore options for your defense.

Click below to request a free opportunity to gain important information that could help improve your situation.

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