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Wisconsin 3rd OWI penalties = jail time + revoked DL With your third OWI offense, sentencing guidelines are much stronger

A 3rd offense OWI in Wisconsin is a criminal charge with severe penalties if convicted:

  • 45 days to 1 year in jail
  • Driver’s license revoked 2-3 years
  • $600-$2000 in fines + $435 ‘driver improvement’ surcharge
  • 1-3 years required ignition interlock device (IID)
  • Absolute sobriety required for occupational license
  • Legal BAC limit of .02 for the rest of your life
  • Travel ban to Canada and problems traveling abroad in European Union

As a repeat offender, your third OWI conviction includes all prior OWI offenses no matter how long ago they happened.

Tom Grieve

OWI & Criminal Defense Attorney

If your BAC is .17 or higher at the time of your third OWI arrest, penalties escalate.

Enhanced penalties for a 3rd OWI with excessive BAC

Blood Alcohol Content



Max. Fine

.17 - .199 Double 90 days - 2 years $4,000
.20 - .2499 Triple 135 days - 3 years $6,000
.25 or greater Quadruple 180 days - 4 years $8,000

A third offense OWI with a minor under 16 in the car increases the penalties:

  • Your 3rd OWI charge is now a felony rather than a misdemeanor
  • Up to 2 years in jail
  • Up to $4000 in fines
  • Driver’s license revoked 4-6 years
  • 4-6 years required ignition interlock device (IID)
  • Absolute sobriety required for occupational license

A third offense OWI causing injury is a Class H felony charge 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 third 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 third offense OWI conviction for 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
3rd OWI Offense & your record How to beat 3rd OWI Offense Payment plans Free consult

A Third OWI conviction is serious - but there are ways to fight the charge

You need a skilled OWI defense attorney who knows what issues to look for in your case, and has the resources to skillfully litigate for your best possible outcome. Attorneys at Grieve Law have a track record of successfully challenging mishandled DUI arrests to get 3rd OWI charges reduced or dropped. 

DUI repeat offenders face harsher consequences

3rd offense DUI WisconsinBeing charged or arrested with a DUI for the third time in Milwaukee or anywhere else the state of Wisconsin is not to be taken lightly. As a repeat offender, the charges you face will be much greater than what they were for your first and second offenses – and the law is even less forgiving. Learn more about DUI penalties in Wisconsin.

With a third OWI offense, the rule that your last offense had to occur within ten years no longer applies. Your 3rd DUI conviction in Wisconsin includes any prior DUI convictions no matter how long ago they occurred.

Anyone with three DUI convictions is permanently subject to a PAC (prohibited alcohol concentration) of .02 in Wisconsin, even if the other OWI convictions happened in other states. At any time after your third DUI, if you are caught driving with a BAC of .02 or higher you can be charged with Operating with a PAC, 4th Offense (felony charge).

If you’ve had multiple DUIs in Wisconsin, there are several factors which may influence the severity of the penalties you face.

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Third offense OWI penalties can multiply

If you were arrested for a third DUI with a BAC of .17 or higher, Wisconsin’s Excessive BAC Escalator will be applied. This means penalties double if your BAC was between .17 and .199, triple if your BAC was between .20 and .2499, and quadruple if BAC exceeded .25 at the time of your arrest.

Is a 3rd OWI in Wisconsin a felony?

Depending on the circumstances of your third OWI arrest, you could be looking at felony charges. A third offense OWI in Wisconsin is a felony if there was a minor under the age of 16 in your vehicle. Penalties also escalate for having a minor in your vehicle while driving drunk: to the tune of up to 2 years in jail, 6 years without a driver’s license, thousands in fines and 6 more years with a required ID.

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Three OWI convictions means a mandatory month+ in jail

A third DUI conviction in Wisconsin means a minimum of 45 days in jail and a maximum of 1 year. The higher your BAC at the time of your arrest, the longer your sentence. Having a minor passenger under age 16 in the car doubles both the minimum and maximum jail time.

How can I avoid jail time for a 3rd DUI in Wisconsin?

In some cases, people with third offense DUIs can qualify for Wisconsin Safe Streets, a program where repeat offenders can to go to drug and alcohol treatment in exchange for a reduced jail sentence. Do not count on this intervention program or even work release to get you out of jail time. Even if you qualify, application varies widely between districts. Participation isn’t a free ride either – you’ll be subject to random drug and alcohol testing, required to appear in court and attend counseling, and can be terminated from the program for any violation. Currently, Safe Streets reductions can only be applied once per lifetime.

Your best chance of reducing your jail time and other penalties is having an experienced DUI lawyer defending your case. Tom Grieve has a proven record of success reducing or even eliminating drunk driving charges for his clients.

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Your license will be revoked for years

When it's your third DUI offense, your license will be revoked immediately on conviction. If, at the time of your arrest you refused to take a field sobriety test, police officers in the state of Wisconsin have the right to revoke your license right there on the spot for a length of up to 3 years. If there was a passenger under the age of 16 in the car at the time of your arrest, your license could be revoked immediately for up to 6 years. Learn more about driving with a revoked license penalty

Will you be eligible for an occupational license? Maybe. In practice there are a number of factors which could impact your ability to retain limited driving privileges. 45 days after any conviction of a 3rd DUI, you may be eligible to apply for an occupational license. Before 45 days, there is no eligibility for an occupational license.

The officer in your case will try to soothe you into eating the charge and making the case sound as clear cut as possible. You’ll hear about the fine and sentence as though they are a done deal, and the officer will start talking about occupational licenses and getting past the charge and on with your life. The officer does not have your best interests in mind. There are many circumstances which can impact the way your case plays out in court, and several things an experienced drunk driving lawyer can use to get your charges reduced or dropped.

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How long a 3rd owi conviction stays on your record

A third OWI stays on your Wisconsin driving and criminal record for the rest of your life. What’s more: Wisconsin’s lifetime look-back policy means when you’re charged with a third OWI it doesn’t matter how many years it’s been since your last drunk driving arrest.

Third DUI in Wisconsin: What happens if I refused a field sobriety test?

Police have the authority to revoke your license on the spot for 1–3 years (up to 6 years if a passenger under the age of 16 is in the car).

Third DUI in Wisconsin: Out of state license

Drivers who live in another state who are convicted of a DUI in Wisconsin face penalties in both states. Yes, your home state WILL find out about your Wisconsin OWI. Learn more about the consequences of an OWI conviction in Wisconsin with an Illinois license (or Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa).

Your 3rd OWI conviction isn’t a given. Find out how to fight it.

Unlike other Milwaukee lawyers, Grieve Law is NOT a fee to plea lawyer™. What does this mean for you? It means the criminal defense attorneys at Grieve Law never make a plea deal with the court system just because it's faster and easier. Instead, we fight tooth-and-nail over every shred of evidence and produce the most powerful and strategic defense to beat your drunk driving charges.

How to beat a 3rd OWI charge

In every 3rd offense OWI charge there are unique details affecting the outcome of your case. Discuss the circumstances of your arrest with an experienced drunk driving lawyer to learn how YOUR third OWI charges could be reduced or dismissed. In general, these are some of the strategies to consider:

Illegal stop

This is common. Perhaps you weren’t doing anything wrong. You hadn’t violated any traffic laws. You weren’t speeding. For some reason, the police stopped you and then ticketed you for driving under the influence. Without the stop, you wouldn’t be facing a third OWI charge. A legal traffic stop can become illegal if the scope or duration of the stop exceeds its initial purpose and isn’t justified by additional facts. The vast majority of OWI cases begin with a traffic stop. Your legal defense starts with determining whether that stop was legal. An experienced DUI lawyer can help prove that when the police stopped you, it wasn’t just unlucky. It was illegal.

Improper field sobriety tests

There are strict standards for field sobriety tests. Breathalyzer test results can be flawed by insufficient maintenance or human error when administering the test. Procedures have to be properly and completely followed. Results have to be fully evaluated. Even if you were driving under the influence, if field sobriety tests were not performed or evaluated properly, you DO have a case. Grieve Law attorneys are certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing training – in other words, we’re qualified to teach the cops what they did wrong during your field tests.

Blood alcohol test mishandled

This happens more often than people think. There are strict professional standards for handling and processing these tests. Human error or malfunctioning equipment can produce misleading results. Proper documentation is required for blood test results to be admissible as evidence. If the right procedures were not followed, you have a strong case for the DUI charges to be dropped. When other aspects come into play, failing a field test alone doesn’t mean you will lose your case in court.

Your blood alcohol level when driving was below the legal limit

Your BAC was above the legal limit – but not until later, when you were tested. The timing of a BAC test is critical: your BAC actually goes up after you stop drinking as the alcohol makes its way to your bloodstream. In this case, you are not guilty of driving while intoxicated -- because you were not legally intoxicated when you were actually driving. This is called “the curve defense.” We have successfully leveraged this technique to prove our client was not in fact over the legal limit while driving, and would have made it home in time if not for the traffic stop.

Challenging a previous OWI conviction

A strategy known as collateral attack can get your third offense OWI penalties and fines reduced. A successful collateral attack means the court can’t use a prior OWI conviction for sentencing purposes in your current case. It’s crucial to hire a drunk driving lawyer to review your previous drunk driving convictions to determine if a collateral attack strategy has a chance of working for your third drunk driving charge.

See examples of OWI case dismissals & reduced charges achieved by Grieve Law.

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