How many driver’s license points will my OWI cost me?
What happens to my driving record if I get convicted of this OWI? If my driver’s license is revoked as part of my sentence, then why did the court also order 6 points be taken off my driving record? And do those points matter if my license is revoked anyway?
Many people facing a first-time OWI charge in Wisconsin have questions like the above. Some people know the basics of Wisconsin’s point system—that if you are convicted of a moving-traffic violation, ranging from offenses like speeding to those like OWI-1sts, your driver’s license will be docked "demerit" points depending on the severity of that offense. If those points start to add up, your license is in danger of being suspended for a period time. The length of suspension varies depending on how many demerit points you have accumulated and what type of driver’s license you have, but for people with regular and commercial driver’s licenses, once you reach 12 demerit points, your license will be suspended for a period of 2 months.
An important aspect of Wisconsin’s point system is that the demerit points on a person’s driving record are only assessed in a 12-month period. For example, if you get a 2-point speeding ticket on January 1, 2018, you need to make sure that you don’t accumulate 10 more points by January 1, 2019, because that would equal 12 demerit points in a 12-month period. If you accumulate your 12th point on January 2, 2019, the lookback period would not include your 2-point ticket on January 1, 2018, because more than 12 months will have passed by then.
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So how does an OWI-1st conviction fit into this framework?
Part of every sentence for someone convicted of an OWI-1st includes a mandatory driver’s license revocation period, ranging from 6 to 9 months. But since OWI-1st is a moving-traffic violation, the State must also assess demerit points—at least 6 demerit points for an OWI. Some people think that those 6 points just go away, since, if your driver’s license is revoked due to the OWI, there aren’t any points left to dock. That’s not entirely true. The points don’t go away, but they don’t count for anything during your period of revocation. Think of the revocation period as hitting pause on the demerit points. Once your revocation period is over, however, the 12-month clock starts, and those 6 points start counting as demerit points on your record.