In Wisconsin, a drunk driving arrest usually results in at least two criminal charges: Operating while under the influence of an intoxicant (OWI), and Prohibited Alcohol Concentration (PAC).
Many of us are familiar with OWI (also called DUI or DWI in other states), but far fewer of us know about PAC charges.
In this post, I briefly explain both of these charges and what to do should you find yourself facing them in Wisconsin.
Charge 1: OWI (Operating Under the Influence of an Intoxicant or Other Drug) in Wisconsin
OWI is commonly associated with drunk driving or driving under the influence of alcohol in Wisconsin.
What counts as an OWI?
While OWI does indeed stand for "operating while intoxicated," OWI charges can apply to driving under the influence of other intoxicants such as drugs, including:
- Prescription Painkillers
- Other Opioids, Including Heroin
- Methamphetamine (Meth)
If you are pulled over in Wisconsin for suspicion of OWI due to drugs or alcohol, keep in mind you have the right to refuse field sobriety testing (unless you have a CDL), which may help the ultimate outcome of your case.
"Many people in Wisconsin, if they're pulled over for suspicion of operating under the influence of an intoxicant, don't realize that they are not legally required to perform field sobriety tests." – Attorney Pat Stangl
To learn more about OWI in Wisconsin, specifically, read the following articles below.
- 5 Ways You Might Incur Extra Penalties For OWI-Related Incidents
- Will I Go to Jail for Drunk Driving (OWI) in Wisconsin?
- How to Protect Driving Privileges While Fighting an OWI in Wisconsin
15 Ways to Beat a Drunk Driving Case in Wisconsin
Charge 2: PAC (Operating with a Prohibited Alcohol Concentration in Wisconsin)
The best way to understand this lesser-known offense is to take a closer look at Wisconsin PAC laws.
Under Wisconsin Statute 346.63(1)(b):
"No person may drive or operate a motor vehicle while...the person has a prohibited alcohol concentration."
What is PAC (Prohibited Alcohol Concentration) in Wisconsin?
What Does BAC Mean?
BAC stands for blood alcohol concentration.
This number is crucial to your case. It represents the results of testing to identify the percentage of alcohol in your bloodstream. This level can be determined through a breath test or breathalyzer, like the Intoximeter EC/IR II or through chemical testing.
What Does PAC Mean?
If BAC represents your results from testing, what is PAC? Prohibited alcohol concentration, or "PAC", is the level of alcohol in your bloodstream that determines you to be legally intoxicated.
In Wisconsin, you are considered to be intoxicated and in violation of the state's prohibited alcohol concentration law if you are found to have a BAC of 0.08% or above for first, second, and third offenses—and 0.02% for fourth and higher offenses.
A PAC charge would be added in addition to drunk driving charges.
Your blood alcohol limit depends on whether or not you have been previously charged with OWI in Wisconsin and how many times. A Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC of 0.08% or above is considered a prohibited alcohol concentration in Wisconsin for:
- First offense OWI
- Second offense OWI
- Third offense OWI
If you are facing a 4th OWI or greater charge due to previous OWI convictions, your prohibited alcohol concentration or PAC begins at the much lower level of 0.02% for the following:
- Fourth offense OWI
- Fifth offense OWI
- Sixth offense OWI
- Seventh offense OWI
- Eighth offense OWI
- Ninth offense OWI
- Tenth offense OWI
If you're facing your 11th OWI offense or any subsequent offenses (12th OWI, 13th OWI in Wisconsin, etc.), your PAC will also begin at a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02% under drunk driving laws in Wisconsin.
How to Beat a DUI, OWI, PAC Case
There are many factors that can affect your case and may help you win, including whether:
- Your traffic stop was constitutional
- The law enforcement officer had probable cause to arrest
- The field sobriety tests were accurate
- The OWI breath test was accurate
- You have certain medical conditions or dietary factors that could affect the accuracy of the breath test
- Blood samples were stored improperly
- Other factors could explain behaviors associated with drunk driving
- Your level of impairment discounts your BAC
- Whether there is enough evidence that you drove or operated the motor vehicle
As well as:
- The potential for a rising BAC due to finishing drinking shortly before being pulled over
- Your right to independently test the blood sample and breath testing device
- That poor driving does not equal OWI
- The content and quality of video footage
PAC & OWI Sentencing
You can be charged with either a PAC, OWI, or both, but you can only be sentenced for one.
In Wisconsin, every judicial district has its own sentencing guidelines for OWIs based on state statutes. Each county circuit court is grouped into nine judicial districts.
To find your judicial district, check out this guide.
Penalties for OWIs differ depending on factors such as the number of OWIs you have committed in the past and the details of your case, such as whether a minor was present in your vehicle when you were pulled over.
A first-offense OWI, for example, can result in significant monetary fines or forfeiture ranging from $150-$300, surcharges, and driver's license revocation for up to 9 months.
A second-offense OWI, however, could result in possible jail time (up to 6 months), significant monetary fines of $350 to $1,100, surcharges, and mandatory driver’s license revocation for at least 12 months.
A person who commits three or more OWIs may face felony charges, heftier fines, and longer jail or prison time.
Read more: Wisconsin OWI Penalties Chart
FREE 10-Minute Consultation
Madison OWI Attorney Pat Stangl has been fighting to defend clients against OWI, PAC, BAC, DUI, DWI, and other drunk driving-related charges in Wisconsin for over 30 years.
Attorney Stangl is pleased to offer (at no obligation) a FREE 10-minute consultation to discuss the charges you're facing and explore your options as you prepare to fight OWI and PAC charges.
Take the first step in defending yourself against PAC charges in Wisconsin; request a FREE 10-minute consultation right away.