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First offense OWI Wisconsin
7 Surprisingly
Painful Penalties
First OWI Wisconsin penalties
Wisconsin first offense OWI
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First OWI Offense Madison Attorney

1st Offense OWI Penalties in Dane County Madison attorney for First Offense OWI Charges

In Wisconsin your first OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) is a civil offense rather than criminal. Even if your BAC was below the legal limit, OWI penalties apply.

Wisconsin’s OWI laws don’t just cover drunk driving. Per Wisconsin State Legislature statue 346.63(1), no person may drive or operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant, controlled substance, or anything that renders someone incapable driving safely. Convictions are based on the person having a prohibited level of alcohol or a controlled substance in his/her blood.

One exception covered in the statute is for defendants with a detectable amount of methamphetamine, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. If the defendant had a valid prescription for any of these substances at the time of the incident he/she has a valid defense.

Civil Offense vs Criminal Offense

A civil offense is different from a criminal offense in that a civil offense is not a crime; it's an infringement of a city ordinance. For example, if you are pulled over for speeding you are violating city traffic laws and will be charged with a civil offense. In most cases a civil offense will not immediately result in an arrest. Instead, the offender will get a ticket and be ordered to pay a fine or face prison time. This does not mean that if an arrest wasn't made it's automatically a civil offense.

Whether a crime is a civil offense or a criminal one is determined by a local, state, or federal statute and can vary depending on juristiction. This is why it is important to contact a qualified attorney who knows the laws and understands the differences between a civil and criminal offense.

In Madison and all of Wisconsin the court is only concerned with whether your ability to operate the vehicle was impaired. Penalties are based on the circumstances when you were pulled over and can include:

  • $150-300 fines plus fees and surcharges, which can be upwards of $900
  • 6-9 month driver’s license revocation
  • Drug and Alcohol Use assessment and follow-through treatment
  • .02% blood alcohol limit while you have an occupational license
  • Increase in costs of car insurance and SR22 insurance in order to get the occupational license

If your blood alcohol concentration was over .15, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in your car and any car titled in your name. 

7 Surprisingly Painful Truths About your First Offense OWI

The penalties increase if you had a minor under the age of 16 in your vehicle at the time you were pulled over:

  • $350-$1100 in fines
  • $435 ‘driver improvement’ surcharge
  • Up to 18 months driver’s license revocation
  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Up to 18 months with a required ignition interlock device in your vehicle

You are only guilty if you are convicted™

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A First Offense OWI is More Than Just a Ticket in Dane County

An experienced Grieve Law DUI attorney will use the following tactics to get your charges reduced or dropped:

Illegal Traffic Stop – A good lawyer will call into question the arresting officer’s motivation for your stop. If there was no legitimate reason for pulling you over in the first place, the officer made an illegal stop and you have grounds to fight your OWI charge.

Time of BAC Test – Your BAC actually goes up after you stop drinking as the alcohol makes its way into your bloodstream. Grieve Law has successfully leveraged this fact to calculate that our client was not in fact over a threshold while driving.

Improper Field Sobriety Test – The state of Wisconsin has strict standards for field sobriety tests. If the equipment wasn’t properly calibrated or the procedures were not completely followed and accurately evaluated, you have a case for fighting your DUI charges. Every DUI case is unique. One of our experienced OWI attorneys will review your charges to determine the best defense for your case.

It’s estimated an OWI will cost you over thirty thousand dollars throughout the course of your life.

In addition to fines, your insurance rates will skyrocket, and you will have serious legal consequences affecting the rest of your life.

A first time OWI arrest is a civil offense in Wisconsin. Potential fines for first time offense with a BAC below 0.15%:

  • Up to $300 in fines
  • Up to 9 months suspended driver’s license
  • 24/7 sobriety program
  • Mandatory SR-22 insurance

Conviction on a first DUI in Wisconsin may include a drug and alcohol assessment and successful completion of a traffic safety course, also known as DUI school or DUI class. The costs for both fall on the convicted.

First time OWI with a BAC above 0.15%:

  • In addition to the above penalties, you will also be required to have an Ignition Interlock Device installed on your vehicle for 12 months. This is essentially a breathalyzer that you must blow into in order to start your car.

First time consequences for a minor under 16:

  • Up to $1100 in fines
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • 6 month license suspension
  • Ignition Interlock Device
  • Mandatory SR-22 insurance

The consequences will follow you for a lifetime. They can cost you jobs, your driver’s license, and many thousands of dollars. There is no way to get it off of your criminal record. It will not be dropped or somehow disappear from your record. It will stay with you forever. So if a police officer tells you “it is just a ticket with a few months driver’s license suspension," tell them you want the best criminal defense and drunk driving attorney in Wisconsin and give us a call.

Occupational Licenses in Wisconsin

If you lose your driver’s license due to an OWI conviction, you may be eligible for an occupational license. This is a restricted driver’s license issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles allowing you to drive for work and other limited  purposes during a restricted time frame. In order to get this license, you will need to complete the occupational license application and show proof you have SR22 insurance in place. For more information on eligibility and applying for your occupational license, contact our experienced attorneys.

60 Hours of Drive Time per Week

With an occupational license, you are granted 60 hours of drive time per week, with no more than 12 hours of drive time on any one day. You are able to divide this time up any way you see fit for your own schedule. Each day of the week can have different hours depending on your particular needs.

What is SR-22 Insurance?

When you get your license suspended or revoked, you will need an occupational license in order to drive during that suspension or revocation period. The first thing you will need is SR-22 insurance through your car insurance company. This is also known as High Risk Insurance. You will need proof of insurance to present at the DMV when you go apply for your occupational license.

You can get an OWI for Marijuana

Not every drunk driving case is about alcohol. Sometimes OWI cases can be about drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, or even ones that are perfectly legal in Wisconsin, like prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs such as Benedryl and Robitussin.

What does all of this mean for YOUR case? It means your case just got more complicated. It means your case just got harder. And it means, more than ever, you need an experienced and qualified defense team standing up for you in court.

What is a 10 day notice?

If you have recently been arrested for a drunk driving offense, it is extremely important that you check your paperwork. You are given a 10 day notice to file important paperwork and legal documents with the court or the Department of Transportation. Failing to do so could result in a conviction and loss of license.

Additional Fines and Penalties After Your First OWI in Wisconsin

How Long Will a First Offense OWI Conviction Stay on Your Record?

A 1st offense OWI conviction in Wisconsin can stay on your record forever. The best way to protect your record and avoid costly, life-changing penalties is with an experienced drunk driving attorney defending your case.

How Long Will a DUI Conviction Affect Your Insurance in Wisconsin?

After a DUI conviction your insurance will be greatly affected. Your insurance company may change your rates based on the circumstances of your OWI and your driving record.

  • SR-22 required up to 3 years after conviction 
  • Up to 5 years of higher insurance premiums 

What if I Have an Out of State Driver’s License?

Being convicted of a DUI in Wisconsin is bad. Being convicted of a DUI with an IllinoisIowaIndianaMichiganMinnesota, or other out-of-state driver's license is often worse. The penalties for drunk driving in Wisconsin are stiff, but it's still the only state where a DUI isn't a criminal conviction. If you receive a DUI conviction in Wisconsin and your home state finds out, you'll face DUI penalties from both states. And they will find out. The federal DUI registry almost guarantees this.

Get a Lawyer for Your First OWI Offense in Madison

Your first OWI conviction has severe consequences and puts you at risk of losing your license, and even your job. An experienced DUI attorney may be able to reduce your fines or get the charge dropped. The drunk driving lawyers at Grieve Law will fight to defend your case and stand up for your rights.

Get a free no-obligation consultation with our team of award-winning former state prosecutors.

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