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2nd OWI Offense in Wisconsin Your second OWI conviction means a permanent criminal record

A 2nd offense OWI in Wisconsin is a criminal charge with severe penalties. If you are convicted of an OWI (2) in Wisconsin, call Grieve Law at 262-786-7100. Second-offense OWI penalties in Wisconsin include:

  • 5 days to 6 months in jail
  • $350-$1100 in fines and a $435 driver improvement surcharge
  • Driver’s license revoked 12-18 months
  • 12-18 months required ignition interlock device (IID) in the vehicle
  • $250 alcohol and drug assessment
  • Travel ban to Canada and problems traveling abroad in European Union

Someone convicted of their second OWI in Wisconsin will be required to carry SR22 high-risk auto insurance and pay higher rates for life and health insurance.

Additional second offense OWI penalties apply if you had a BAC of .17 or higher.

Enhanced penalties for a 2nd OWI with excessive BAC

Blood Alcohol Content



Max. Fine

.17 - .199 Double 10 days - 1 year $2,200
.20 - .2499 Triple 15 days - 1.5 years $3,300
.25 or greater Quadruple 20 days - 2 years $4,400

A second offense OWI with a minor under 16 in the vehicle increases the penalties:

  • 10 days to 1 year in jail
  • Driver’s license revoked up to 18 months
  • $700-$2200 in fines +$435 ‘driver improvement’ surcharge
  • Up to 2 years required ignition interlock device (IID)
  • Absolute sobriety required for occupational license

A second offense OWI with injury causing bodily harm is a Class H felony with additional penalties:

  • Up to 6 years in prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Penalties double if the injured person was under 16 years old

A conviction for second OWI causing great bodily harm is a Class F felony with even harsher penalties:

  • Up to 12.5 years in prison
  • Up to $25,000 in fines
  • Penalties increase if a pregnant woman (unborn child) was in the vehicle

A second offense OWI conviction for vehicular manslaughter (Homicide While OWI) is a Class C felony with the following penalties:

  • Up to 40 years in prison
  • Up to $100,000 in fines
  • Penalties increase if a pregnant woman (unborn child) was in the vehicle
2nd OWI & your record How to beat 2nd OWI Payment plans

7 grim realities of your 2nd OWI conviction:

If you get a 2nd DUI in Wisconsin, it’s always a criminal offense. Unfortunately, 2nd offense DUI convictions happen more frequently than they should. Grieve Law has a proven track record of successfully getting second offense drunk driving charges reduced or dropped for our clients. Per data collected in February 2022, 147,404 Wisconsin drivers had two OWI convictions during 2021.

A 2nd OWI carries significant expenses and consequences beyond the criminal penalties, many of them ongoing. The overt and hidden costs of a second OWI conviction far exceed what it would cost to retain an attorney. When your job, money, reputation, and life are on the line you need an experienced, award-winning OWI law firm. Tom Grieve is not only recognized among his peers, he is also recognized as a “Clients’ Choice” drunk driving attorney for his legal knowledge, fierce representation, and meaningful results. Contact Grieve Law today for a free case review.

1. Unlike your first offense, second OWI charges are criminal

You will be charged with a crime if you are arrested for a second offense OWI within 10 years of your first offense. Your first offense could be an OWI conviction or an implied consent violation, aka refusal. This means if you’re arrested, charged and convicted of a second offense DUI in Wisconsin you will always be a convicted criminal for the rest of your life. Whenever you apply for a job or seek a promotion and you get asked the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” you must answer yes!

What makes your second OWI a crime as opposed to a civil offense? The penalties. They only get worse on a second offense OWI charge.

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2. A second offense OWI conviction means mandatory jail time in Wisconsin.

If convicted, jailtime for a 2nd offense OWI in Wisconsin is not less than five days or more than six months. A jail sentence can and often does result in someone losing their job, whether or not a discharge or termination is legal.. On top of getting fired, jail can make you miss out on important life events. Many people are sitting in jail while their child is at their graduation ceremony, or while their spouse is left to juggle childcare and work throughout the sentence. Thanksgiving and Christmas will also happen even while you sit in jail, unable to celebrate with your loved ones. Jail itself is bad, but usually the penalties people don't think about are far worse.

That's not even saying anything about the unavoidable stigma of being a convicted criminal, or the added costs of a 2nd offense OWI in Wisconsin.

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3. Almost no one gets the minimum five days

So you probably just read number two and thought, “Five days is not so bad. I can do five days in jail.” Unfortunately, around southeastern Wisconsin, extremely few repeat OWI offenders are sentenced to five days in jail. In fact, extremely few people get sentenced to even 10, 15, or 20 days jail – if you’re curious, learn more about Wisconsin’s OWI sentencing guidelines. There’s a very good chance the minimum sentence is not going to be anywhere close to what a judge in your district rules for your case. Keep in mind, judicial sentencing guidelines are not rules. The judge is always free to sentence you to whatever he or she wants, including the minimum. However, he or she could also sentence you to the maximum.

More likely than not, the prosecutor on your case will be trying to put you in jail for 30-90 days. Remember the prosecutors do not use the same guidelines that judges do, and are free to seek any sentence they believe is appropriate.

While Grieve Law is successful at getting many people out of their drunk driving charges, we are also very successful at getting significantly reduced sentences and outcomes for clients. Just because you may fit into a certain sentencing category at first glance does not mean that outcome is locked in. Remember, you are only guilty if you are convicted and you will only be sentenced if you are found guilty.

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4. Can I still keep my job and see my children while in jail?

Possibly. But even if your county has a Huber program there’s no guarantee you’ll be in it.

The Huber laws in Wisconsin allow for inmates to be transferred to a facility where they are allowed to leave during the day to either seek employment, maintain their job, or perform child care services. Counties with Huber programs generally all have the same basic requirements for Huber release, which include:

  • You must have a residence in the county
  • You must have employment
  • You must not have been convicted of any violent offense either now or in the past

Keep in mind Huber is considered a privilege under the law and not a right you're entitled to. If your county has a Huber program, there must be enough beds available for them to accept you, but there are often limited budgets and resources in the system. Additionally, serving your jail sentence in a Huber facility with work release privileges comes at a cost. You must pay daily fees to the facility for the opportunity to serve your sentence with Huber release privileges. Most facilities require an up-front payment of several days or weeks’ worth of fees.

Inmates are expected to comply with many rules and conditions of work release which strictly control your movements, forbid alcohol and other controlled substances, and require at least one full day spent in jail each week.

If you are caught in violation of your Huber work release, you could lose your privileges and get transferred back to the main jail. You could even be charged with an additional crime for violating those rules. Don’t count on work release to make your jail sentence easier. A smarter move is hiring a DUI defense lawyer with a proven record of getting his clients' charges greatly reduced or even dismissed.

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5. Isn’t there some kind of house arrest or electronic monitoring I can do instead of jail?

The answer is a definite maybe.

Generally speaking, the requirements for electronic monitoring are similar to those for Huber release. The individual serving a sentence typically must have a residence in the county, must have employment, and must not have been convicted of any violent offense either now or in the past.

Since many electronic monitoring systems still rely on a landline phone, it can still be a requirement in various counties. Since “house arrest” is considered a privilege under the law, certain counties set conditions such as being employed within the county, or within a certain distance from your home. There are also very strict rules inmates must follow exactly, or lose their house arrest privileges and return to jail. There may also be fees associated with being on electronic monitoring that are usually required to be paid, at least partly, up front.

Electronic monitoring equipment can be very expensive, and different counties struggle with resource and budget issues. Even if you qualify for electronic monitoring, and the Sherriff’s department says you are eligible, there is no guarantee you will ever be released into house arrest. You may have to wait days, weeks, or even months for an electronic monitoring bracelet to become available.

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6. You’re required to get an IID – and pay for it

Depending on when and how you obtained your first OWI in Wisconsin, you may not have had to deal with an ignition interlock device. However, if you are convicted of an OWI 2nd offense in Wisconsin, then you will have to install a breathalyzer in your car (also called an ignition interlock device or IID). That device will be on any vehicle titled or registered in your name as well as any vehicle you operate for a minimum of one year. Aside from the inconvenience and embarrassment that comes with having an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle, there is also a very real financial burden.

Most ignition interlock device installers in Wisconsin will charge at least $1,000.00 for a year of service per vehicle. Sometimes, depending on your vehicle make or model and various other factors, $1,000.00 can easily turn into $2,000.00 or more. This means if you have multiple vehicles, you may be required to pay for and install multiple ignition interlock devices. Having an ignition interlock device installed is not only a requirement for you to apply for an occupational license after a second OWI conviction but can also be a requirement for you to be allowed to serve a sentence in Huber, depending on your county.

Living with an ignition interlock device costs you time as well. There are very strict requirements for maintaining the ignition interlock device in your car. You must have it calibrated frequently, and failure to do so can lead to additional criminal charges. And don’t forget, you must have an occupational license in place with available drive time in order to take your vehicle to the IID location to have the machine calibrated.

It is a crime under Wisconsin law for a person who is under an ignition interlock device order to operate any motor vehicle without an IID installed. While there are a few notable exceptions able to be argued by a knowledgeable and skilled defense attorney, keep in mind you will be subjected to additional charges and an entirely new court process for non-compliance with a court-ordered IID. Failure to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle can result in even more potential jail time, fines, and driver’s license revocation time.

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7. Your prohibited alcohol concentration after a 2nd OWI is .02%.

Everyone knows the legal limit for driving a car in Wisconsin is .08%. Some people know the legal limit turns to .02% after you’ve been convicted of a third drunk driving offense. But hardly anyone knows that for as the entire time you have an ignition interlock device requirement on your driver’s license, your legal limit is .02%.

What is .02% blood alcohol concentration? For most people, it means one drink or less. This basically puts an absolute sobriety order on your driving. You can no longer have a beer with a friend or co-worker after work and then drive home knowing you'll be safe. One drink may be enough to put you over your legal limit of .02%.

What happens if you’re caught driving over .02%? You can be charged with a criminal offense called Prohibited Alcohol Concentration (PAC). It amounts to the same thing as being charged with a third drunk driving offense and you’ll face the same 3rd OWI penalties. And don’t think for one second the prosecutor won’t charge you and seek a conviction because you blew a .025%. You may be absolutely sober, you may have passed your fields, but you will still go to jail if convicted on PAC.

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How long a 2nd OWI conviction stays on your record

A second offense OWI conviction stays on your criminal record for the rest of your life. Once you have two OWIs on your record, Wisconsin has a lifetime look-back policy for all future drunk driving arrests – no chance of a clean slate.

Is a second OWI a felony in Wisconsin?

A second OWI is a criminal misdemeanor offense, not a felony. If convicted of a second OWI in Wisconsin you will have a criminal record for the rest of your life.

Can a 2nd OWI conviction be expunged?

Short answer: NO. It’s extremely unlikely (essentially impossible) a Wisconsin court will expunge a drunk driving conviction for any reason. Please keep this in mind.

Even if expungement from your public record were possible, the DOT doesn’t recognize expungements and your OWI convictions will be on your driving record forever.

To protect your criminal record, you’re better off hiring a proven drunk driving attorney to fight your 2nd OWI charges before getting convicted.

Can a 2nd DUI be dismissed?

Possibly. Whether you’re able to have your second DUI charges dismissed or reduced depends on the details of your arrest, and the quality of attorney representing your case.

How to beat 2nd OWI charges

In each 2nd DUI charge there are specific details affecting the outcome of your case. To learn how to get your second drunk driving charges reduced or dismissed, you’ll need to speak to an attorney about the unique circumstances of your arrest. In general, these are some of the defense strategies to consider:

Illegal stop

All too often in Wisconsin, drivers are pulled over even when they haven’t violated any traffic laws or done anything wrong. Mounting a legal defense against second DUI charges starts by determining whether the police had a legal right to stop you. Even legal traffic stops can become illegal when the scope or duration of the stop goes beyond its initial purpose.

Field sobriety tests mishandled

Procedures for field sobriety tests must be strictly followed, and the results fully evaluated. Even in cases where the driver was operating while intoxicated, the charges can be dropped if the field sobriety tests didn’t meet the strict standards. Grieve Law attorneys are certified by the NHTSA in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing training – which means we’re qualified to teach the police what they did wrong.

Blood alcohol test error

Chemical testing for BAC must follow strict professional standards including how the testing is performed, processed and documented. There are myriad ways human error and equipment malfunction can lead to an invalid result, which means it can’t be used as evidence.

BAC under the limit while driving

In some cases, were it not for the police pulling someone over, they would have made it home and been off the roads before their blood alcohol reached the legal limit. This is called the curve defense, and it will examine the timing of your BAC test to determine if you were legally intoxicated during the time you were actually behind the wheel.

Collateral attack

A collateral attack means challenging your prior OWI conviction so it can’t be used for sentencing purposes for the current OWI charge you’re facing. You’ll need to work with an experienced drunk driving lawyer qualified to review your previous OWI conviction to determine if a collateral attack could be applied to your second OWI charge.

The consequences of a second DUI don’t stop at criminal penalties

2nd offense DUI penalties and expenses vary depending on the facts of your case – and they’re not all included in the sentence handed down by a judge.
There are even more consequences people with a second OWI conviction have to deal with:

  • A $250 alcohol and drug assessment + cost of recommended treatment plan
  • Hundreds of dollars for an occupational license
  • More money to apply to have your driver’s license reinstated
  • Loss of your job if you have a commercial driver’s license or pilot’s license
  • SR22 high-risk auto insurance (on average costing $95 to $200/month -- required by the state if you want an occupational license. You’re stuck because it replaces your existing insurance).
  • Thousands of more dollars on higher auto insurance premiums for years after your conviction
  • Higher life insurance rates
  • Higher health insurance rates
  • Time off work to appear in court
  • Vehicle impound fees
  • Travel ban to Canada (forget those fishing trips) and problems traveling elsewhere (like the European Union).

Don't trust your record and personal freedom to some general practice lawyer. Criminal defense isn’t just something we offer: it’s basically everything we do. A free, no-obligation consultation with our team of award-winning drunk driving defense attorneys is just a call away.

The defense attorney Wisconsin trusts to get 2nd OWI Charges reduced or DISMISSED

As former prosecutors with years of experience on both sides of drunk driving cases, Tom Grieve and the award-winning defense lawyers of Grieve Law have an unparalleled understanding of OWI laws in Wisconsin. Fee to Plea™ lawyers talk their clients into fast and easy plea deals, but the aggressive attorneys of Grieve Law steadfastly defend the rights of their clients.

When your court date arrives, it will be the officer’s word against yours. Don’t face your DUI charges alone. You need a proven OWI defense lawyer who knows how to investigate and pursue every avenue toward getting your charges and penalties dropped or reduced.

References: Suspension and revocation by the courts. Wisconsin Statute § 343.30(1q)(b)3 (2022) | Prior convictions, suspensions or revocations to be counted as offenses. Wisconsin Statute § 343.307(1) (2022) | Prohibited alcohol concentration. Wisconsin Statute § 340.01(46m)(a) (2022) |

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Awesome lawyers. Ms. Lewandowski was the best lawyer and the price wasn't terrible. Great at DUI law. 

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"I couldn't have asked for a better, more caring and competent attorney and I will say that to anyone, anytime!"

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I worked with attorney Julia Westley for my owi case. She was always very responsive to any inquiries I had even after my sentencing. I could always tell that she genuinely cared about where the case was going and felt that she had my best interests at heart and it wasn't just about getting the case over with. Would highly recommend.

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I hired the firm to help me with an OWI 2nd offense. I was very pleased with the communication and attention I was given throughout the case. I appreciate the assistance I continue to get even after the case was settled.

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