It's the phone call no parent or guardian wants to receive: your underage son or daughter has been picked up for drunk driving.

We know this is a scary time for your family. Your child's future lies ahead and you want to start doing what is needed to help get them through this difficult time.

In Wisconsin, cases of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) are complicated for both adults and minors. Wisconsin law is stricter on those under age 21 than adults when it comes to OWI.

Not only is a lower Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) considered grounds for arrest with minors, penalties are comparatively stricter than those for adults. See our article on Underage OWI in Wisconsin to learn more.

With over 32 years of experience defending OWI cases in Wisconsin, Stangl Law knows the first thing parents should do is contact an attorney specializing in OWI to start their child's legal defense.

The First Step to Helping Your Child Fight Drunk Driving Charges in Wisconsin

It's very important to stress to your child not to talk to the police without a lawyer present.

They should be polite, but not talk about their case alone.

Ask if law enforcement has already conducted an interview with your child without your presence or the presence of your family's defense attorney.

If your child was interviewed by police without your presence or was not given the opportunity to contact you or a lawyer first, be sure to inform an attorney immediately.

Remember: It's important to find representation within the same state, as drunk-driving laws vary depending on the state in which the arrest was made. If your child was arrested in Wisconsin, keep legal counsel in state to help ensure you're securing a solid defense strategy.

Get the Facts

It's important for your attorney to understand the circumstances of what happened leading up to your child's arrest for driving under the influence.

There could be other significant factors which contributed to your child's intoxicated state. It could be your minor child did not realize he or she was consuming alcoholic beverages until it was too late or was pressured into consuming alcohol.

Consulting a knowledgeable attorney who has experience successfully defending minors against underage OWI charges is the best way to mitigate penalties they may be facing or get the charges dismissed.

What Penalties is My Child Facing?

No parent wants their teenager to have an OWI committed to their record.

Penalties for First Offense OWI in Wisconsin can result in fines, and/or the suspension or forfeiture of a driver's license. In some circumstances, even minors can be charged with felony-level charges in the state of Wisconsin.

I Thought it was Legal for my Teenager to Drink Alcohol if I was Present

Under Wisconsin law, it is considered legal for you to provide your minor with alcohol in your presence. 

However, once there is alcohol in your minor child's system and on his or her breath, if they encounter police after leaving your company or getting behind the wheel, they will be treated as anyone under the influence, risking the same treatment and associated penalties.

If you supplied provided alcohol to your minor leading up to his or her arrest in Wisconsin, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Wisconsin attorney for advice moving forward.

Social Host Liability and Dram Shop Law in Wisconsin

You may have heard of "Dram Shop" cases, and wondered what they were.

These types of laws place responsibility for offenses resulting from intoxication on the shoulders of those who supplied the alcohol. 

Generally, the state of Wisconsin does not hold liable bars or other establishments serving alcohol, or individuals serving alcohol to guests in their homes, should the patron or guest be later charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant or cause an accident as a result from the intoxication.

If that patron or guest is a minor, however, the state of Wisconsin does recognize a law wherein the bar or host is held liable if they served alcohol without the defendant's knowledge, pressured the defendant into consuming alcohol or served alcohol knowingly to a minor.

Under Wisconsin Statute 125.035 Civil liability exemption: furnishing alcohol beverages:

(1) In this section, "person" has the meaning given in s. 990.01 (26).

(2) A person is immune from civil liability arising out of the act of procuring alcohol beverages for or selling, dispensing or giving away alcohol beverages to another person.

(3) Subsection (2) does not apply if the person procuring, selling, dispensing or giving away alcohol beverages causes their consumption by force or by representing that the beverages contain no alcohol.


(a) In this subsection, "provider" means a person, including a licensee or permittee, who procures alcohol beverages for or sells, dispenses or gives away alcohol beverages to an underage person in violation of s.125.07 (1) (a).

Bars, party hosts or other providers of alcohol to your minor will not be held responsible or liable if your teen claimed to be of legal drinking age, presented documentation such as a fake ID stating legal drinking age, the provider served the alcohol to your minor relying in good faith on these claims or documentation, and believed your minor to be of legal drinking age based on his or her appearance.

Consult a knowledgeable attorney who will look at the specific circumstances surrounding your minor child's arrest in order to build an effective strategy to fight underage OWI charges in Wisconsin.

Start Exploring Defense Options for Your Teenager Now

There are many factors that may contribute to the defense of your minor against OWI charges in Wisconsin. With so much at stake, it is imperative you don't delay in contacting a proven attorney to start building a strong defense strategy for your child.

To schedule your free, no-obligation 10-minute consultation with Patrick J. Stangl, Madison OWI Attorney, click here.