Is an OWI Considered a Misdemeanor Crime or Felony in Wisconsin?
The Classification of Your OWI Depends on How Many Prior Convictions are on Your Record.
If this is your very first, it will be classified as a civil offense. A civil offense is not a crime, but you will still be facing serious, life-altering penalties. Even if your BAC is below 0.15%, these penalties can include steep fines and revocation of your license. If a child was riding in the car, you face jail time of up to 6 months. Despite the fact that a civil offense is not the same as a crime, Canada can deny you entry even if you have only had one DUI. In addition, all U.S. states consider your first DUI to be a crime, so you will likely have difficulty obtaining work if you ever move out of state.
A misdemeanor is a crime for which you can be fined or sent to jail, but not to state or federal prison, and 2nd and 3rd offense OWIs are classified as misdemeanors. In the case of your third offense, fines and jail time are mandatory. You could be facing incarceration for up to a year.
Classifications of OWIs in Wisconsin
- 1st offense: civil offense
- 2nd offense: misdemeanor
- 3rd offense: misdemeanor
- 4th offense and above: felony
Wisconsin OWI laws are getting stiffer. As of January 2017, your fourth DUI is now classified as a felony, and you could face up to six years in prison. Fines and jail time are mandatory if you are convicted of your fourth OWI, and additional OWIs carry increasing penalties. Your 5th or 6th conviction carries prison sentences as high as ten years and fines of $25,000. Having a felony on your record will seriously limit your job options. You will also be prohibited from owning a firearm, and may have difficulty traveling abroad and receiving social benefits or parental rights.
You Are Only Guilty If You Are Convicted
I Got an OWI in Wisconsin. What are My Options?
Because of the increasingly steep penalties, it is critical to avoid having even one driving while intoxicated conviction on your record. Surprisingly, 19 out of 20 people accused of their first OWI don’t get an attorney. Perhaps the police make it seem like there is nothing you can do to fight it, that the case will be “open and shut” and you will be better off cooperating. This is not the case. The Waukesha OWI attorneys at Grieve Law have had years of experience successfully fighting so-called “unwinnable” charges, and we can do the same for you.