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Wisconsin 4th OWI penalties include jail + lifetime revocation A fourth OWI conviction is an automatic felony on your record

As of 2018, a 4th offense OWI in Wisconsin is a Class H felony charge with mandatory penalties:

  • 60 days to 6 years in jail
  • Driver’s license revoked 2-3 years
  • Driver’s license revoked for life with no possibility of occupational license if previously convicted within 15 years
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Absolute sobriety required for occupational license, if eligible
  • 1-3 years required ignition interlock device, if eligible
  • ‘Driver improvement’ surcharge of $435
  • Travel ban to Canada and problems traveling abroad in European Union

As a convicted felon in Wisconsin, you will lose your right to vote, own a gun and participate in certain government programs. A felony on your record can also make it difficult to work in certain industries or have legal custody of your children.

Julia Westley

OWI & Criminal Defense Attorney

Tom Grieve

OWI & Criminal Defense Attorney

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

Enhanced penalties for a 4th OWI with excessive BAC

Blood Alcohol Content

Penalties

Incarceration

Max. Fine

.17 - .199 Double 120 days - 12 years $20,000
.20 - .2499 Triple 180 days - 18 years $30,000
.25 or greater Quadruple 240 days - 24 years $40,000

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

  • Up to 12 years in jail
  • Up to $20,000 in fines
  • Driver’s license revoked 4-6 years
  • 4-6 years required ignition interlock device (IID)
  • Absolute sobriety required for occupational license

A fourth 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 fourth 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 fourth 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
4th Offense OWI & your record How to beat 4th Offense OWI Payment plans Free consult

4 scary facts about your 4th OWI in Wisconsin

When you’re facing DUI charges for a fourth time it’s more important than ever to have an experienced DUI attorney representing you. An aggressive Wisconsin drunk driving attorney familiar with defense strategies for these types of cases can make the difference between being a convicted felon for life, or keeping your basic civil and constitutional rights. 

You Are Only Guilty If You Are Convicted®

1. Your 4th OWI is a felony conviction

As of January 1st, 2018, a 4th offense OWI in Wisconsin is charged as a Class H felony under any circumstances. This is in stark contrast to Wisconsin drunk driving laws of twenty years ago, which allowed a driver to rack up a record number of OWI convictions without facing prison time.

A felony conviction stays with you the rest of your life and has many serious consequences, including:

  • Reduced job opportunities
  • No longer eligible for federal assistance
  • Ability to visit other countries is limited or denied
  • You lose your right to vote until two years after your probation has ended
  • You lose your right to own a firearm for the rest of your life

When you apply for a job, a professional license or even an apartment, you will be required to disclose your conviction. If you don’t and it’s later found out you lied, you can lose the job, the license or the apartment. A felony conviction plus the prison time and financial burdens that go with it are a huge strain on relationships.

Your best chance of avoiding a felony conviction by having the charges reduced to a misdemeanor (or even dismissed) is with an experienced DUI attorney on your side.

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2. You’ll spend months to years in jail

A fourth OWI conviction means a minimum 60 days’ jail sentence, up to 6 years. Even the minimum (which is by no means guaranteed) could mean losing your job, your housing or a relationship. If you had an excessive BAC or a minor passenger at the time of your fourth drunk driving arrest, you're looking at up to 12 years in jail (or more).

Some people qualify for Wisconsin’s Safe Streets program, which lets repeat DUI offenders serve a reduced jail sentence in exchange for completing a drug and alcohol treatment program. This option is only available once in each offender’s lifetime, has stringent participation requirements, and application eligibility varies by county.

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3. Driver’s license revoked – possibly for life

If convicted of a 4th OWI your driver’s license will be revoked for a minimum of 2-3 years on top of the time you spend in jail. If your 4th OWI conviction happens within 15 years of your previous OWI, your license is revoked for life.

An occupational license is a possibility, not a promise. There’s a waiting period and eligibility requirements to meet before you can apply for a hardship license. If you are able to obtain one you’ll be responsible for related expenses including application fees, SR22 insurance and IID expenses. After 4 OWI convictions, absolute sobriety is a requirement to keep your occupational license.

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4. It’s even easier to get convicted

If you already have 3 OWI convictions on your record, you have a prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC) of .02 for the rest of your life. This is true whether your previous drunk driving convictions happened in or outside Wisconsin.

How much alcohol it takes to reach .02 blood alcohol concentration varies between individuals, but in general one drink (or less than one drink) is all it takes.

This means you could be driving with a blood alcohol level well below the legal limit, and still be charged and convicted of operating with a PAC for the 4th time. The penalties for a 4th PAC will be the same as a 4th OWI conviction.

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How long does a fourth offense OWI stay on your record?

A felony fourth 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 fourth OWI it doesn’t matter how many years or even decades it’s been since your last drunk driving arrest.

How much does a 4th DUI cost?

4th DUI fines, surcharges, and a mandatory alcohol and drug assessment can easily exceed $15,000 (not a typo). Depending on the circumstances of your 4th DUI arrest, the fines can escalate quickly. And this doesn’t include additional expenses like impound fees, missing work or losing your job, the cost of an IID for years, paying for high-risk auto insurance and more.

Can a 4th OWI conviction be expunged?

No. It’s basically impossible to expunge a drunk driving conviction in a Wisconsin court for any reason. Please keep this in mind.

Even if expungement were possible, it only affects your public record. The DOT doesn’t recognize expungements and OWI offenses will be on your driving record forever. Your best bet is hiring a proven drunk driving attorney to fight your 4th OWI charges before being convicted.

Can you beat a 4th DUI?

It's possible to get 4th DUI charges dismissed, and your odds of success depend on the quality of attorney you hire. Grieve Law attorneys have a proven track record of getting drunk driving charges reduced or even dropped

How to beat a 4th offense OWI

More than 19,000 drivers in the State of Wisconsin have at least four OWI convictions. You CAN fight felony drunk driving charges, but a Fee-to-Plea™ lawyer won’t want to.

Grieve Law attorneys won’t push you through the system with a quick and easy plea deal. We’ll mount a strong defense, challenging the accuracy of the breathalyzer test, blood draw or field sobriety test you were given and looking for any mistakes made by the arresting officers. Our goal is to reduce the charges against you in any way legally possible.

Each drunk driving case is unique. In general, these are some of the defense strategies to consider:

Illegal traffic stop

If you were stopped without due cause, you have grounds to fight your 4th OWI charge. A good lawyer can call into question the arresting officer’s motivations. If there was no legitimate basis for pulling you over, the officer made an illegal stop. In other cases, what starts as a legal stop becomes illegal if the amount of time you’re pulled over exceeds the initial cause, or the scope of the stop isn’t justified by the facts of the case.

The legality of a traffic stop is complex and deeply rooted in Wisconsin case law. Our attorneys are familiar with the legitimate reasons a Wisconsin DUI stop can be justified in court, and aren’t afraid to challenge the “fact pattern” asserted by your arresting officer.

Poorly conducted field sobriety test

The state of Wisconsin has strict standards for field sobriety tests. If the equipment wasn’t properly calibrated or procedures weren’t followed correctly, there is cause to challenge the test. An incorrectly administered FST cannot be used as evidence to convict you of driving drunk.

Grieve Law attorneys are the ONLY drunk driving lawyers in Wisconsin who are former prosecutors AND certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the Standardized Field Sobriety Test Training Program. If the cops did something wrong during your FST, we’ll find it.

Chemical test results compromised

Wisconsin laws specify exactly where and how a DUI blood test can be performed. A blood test for blood alcohol content has strict standards. If correct procedures for handling and processing the blood sample are not followed, or the equipment hasn’t been maintained properly, the accuracy of the test results can be called into question.

Time of test for BAC

If you weren’t given a blood test for some time after your arrest, the “rising blood alcohol defense” could come into play. It takes time for the alcohol you drink to be fully absorbed into your bloodstream. In some cases even if the defendant’s BAC was over the legal limit when drawn, it may have been below the limit while they were actually driving.

Collateral attack

A strategy known as collateral attack is a possible way to reduce the penalties you receive for a fourth OWI. When successful, one of your prior OWI convictions is attacked and can no longer be counted as a prior offense for sentencing purposes. This could make the difference between being convicted as a 3rd OWI misdemeanor offense or a 4th OWI felony offense. There’s no limit to how many of your prior OWIs can be collaterally attacked. This is a complicated defense strategy and you absolutely need a qualified attorney representing your case for it to succeed.

A Fee-to-Plea™ lawyer will say, “There’s not much you can do.” Be wary!

A fourth OWI charge doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be convicted. Grieve Law attorneys will investigate your 4th OWI arrest and determine the best defense against a felony conviction. If the State refuses to agree to drop charges, we prepare your case for trial and fight to have the charges and penalties reduced to minimize the damage.

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