Wisconsin OWI Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Prevent My License from Getting Suspended Right After an OWI Arrest?
Upon arrest for OWI, you will be issued a notice of intent to suspend operating privilege. By law, you have 10 days from the date of the notice to request an administrative review hearing. Requesting this hearing may prevent your license from being suspended 30 days from the date of the notice. Sometimes you'll receive the notice of intent to suspend in the mail. If the notice is sent by mail, you have 13 days excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays after the date of mailing to make a request for an administrative review hearing. As always, the best thing to do is hire counsel.

Are OWI Reports Public in Wisconsin?
Yes. Wisconsin statute 19.21, known as the Wisconsin open records law, was enacted in 1982. This law allows the public to have access to public records that stem from all levels of the government. A record has been defined by the Wisconsin legislator as any document regardless of its physical form that has been created or is being kept by a government agency.

How Long Will Someone Be Detained for an OWI Arrest?
Usually, a person is not held on pretrial detention for an OWI longer than overnight or in felony cases, usually 48 hours.

Will I Have to Go to Court for an OWI Arrest?
You will have to appear in misdemeanor cases in all necessary hearings like a motion hearing or trial. In some counties or some places in the state, you will also need to appear personally for routine scheduling appearances. In felony cases for OWI, your presence is required at all hearings unless previously excused by the court. In an OWI first offense, because it is a civil matter, a person does not need to appear at any court proceedings unless there is a civil subpoena issued for them by the prosecutor.

What Is the OWI Pretrial Conference?
An OWI pretrial conference is essentially a meeting between the defendant or their attorney if they have retained counsel and the prosecutor before trial takes place. A variety of things are discussed at the pretrial conference, such as any outstanding issues regarding evidence, video or audio footage from the arrest, and even possible offers for settlement. It is not uncommon for there to be multiple pretrial conferences.

Is an OWI a Felony or a Misdemeanor in Wisconsin?
In the state of Wisconsin, a first OWI is actually a civil traffic offense. This means that there is no jail time associated with said offense. However, second and third OWIs are misdemeanor offenses, and a fourth OWIs and above is a felony offense.

What Is the OWI Arraignment Process in Wisconsin?
Arraignment occurs even at the initial appearance in misdemeanor cases or at an arraignment court hearing in felony cases. In either situation, the judge must find that there is probable cause to charge the offense or the charge, or charges are thrown out by the court. Following an arraignment, the defense attorney asks the court to enter a not guilty plea. What arraignment does is allow the case to continue to the next step, which could be a motion hearing or trial.

Can I Be Convicted of OWI If There Are No Tests Administered at the Time of My Arrest?
It is possible to be convicted of OWI if there are no breath or blood tests administered. In that scenario or in either one of those scenarios, the police officer's testimony can be the basis for the OWI conviction. However, the prosecution has a weaker case with no test results as judges and juries both like to see test results. The best way to avoid an OWI conviction, though, is to retain the services of an attorney.

What Could Happen if Someone Pleads Guilty to OWI?
If a person pleads guilty to OWI, they do face potential jail or prison time, a driver's license revocation, an ignition interlock device, and an alcohol and drug assessment. There are also potential collateral consequences of an OWI conviction, such as loss of a professional certification or license or having the information show up on a background check that's conducted by an employer, a prospective employer, or a landlord.

Can Someone Plead No Contest for an OWI?
Yes. A no contest plea is possible in an OWI case. A no contest plea to an OWI can be beneficial in situations where there's potential civil liability such as an OWI involving injuries or an accident. By pleading no contest, a person agrees that the prosecutioncan prove its case on the OWI.

What Is the Dane County OWI Treatment Court Program?
The Dane County OWI Treatment Court Program is a program for offenders with third offense or higher OWI cases. If a person qualifies, it allows that person to receive the minimum jail time in a case in exchange for participating in the treatment court. What the person is required to do is attend weekly sessions with the court. There's also going to be a social worker assigned, and a prosecutor is also assigned to treatment court. The weekly sessions allow the court to check in to make sure that the person is complying with treatment. The person also has to comply with random drug testing, and they also have to comply with treatment sessions with a treatment provider.

Can Someone Be Deported for an OWI Arrest or Conviction in Wisconsin?
Generally, the common understanding of drunk driving or OWI cases was that they are not crimes that make a person removable from the United States. However, if a person receives a sentence that is one year or longer for an OWI, that person can be removed from the United States. In the Trump administration, we've seen some of the opposite situations happening. During this administration, we've been seeing people held in pretrial detention for offenses that are not necessarily removable like OWI.

What Are Some of the Potential Consequences Regarding Immigration Status for a Person Arrested for OWI?
A person could be removed from the United States, denied entry to the United States, or be denied naturalization based upon an OWI conviction.

How Does Your Firm Determine Its Fees for OWI Cases?
Our fees vary based upon the complexity of the case, including what level of offense the drunk driving case is or whether it is in municipal court or circuit court, and our firm's expertise with the subject or case type.

Are Women and Men Treated Differently for Drunk Driving in Wisconsin?
As far as the black letter of the law, the penalties and collateral ramifications for drunk driving don't discriminate between men and women. However, these laws are applied by people with conscious and unconscious biases. That is why it's important to have an attorney who can snuff these biases out and understand how to use them to effectuate a more advantageous negotiation strategy or legal outcome. 

Will I Be Sent to Treatment After Being Charged with OWI in Wisconsin?
Not necessarily. An OWI conviction does mandate an alcohol and drug abuse assessment. Based upon the reviewer's determination, further treatment may be ordered. It is common for the assessment to recommend no further treatment, though.

What Is Absolute Sobriety in Wisconsin?
This has been debated through the years, as the legal limit in Wisconsin for most is a 0.08. So, some have intimated that sobriety should be any amount of alcohol less than the legal limit. However, the common understanding of absolute sobriety means a complete absence of the consumption of alcohol.

What Are the Penalties for OWI with a Minor Under the Age of 16 in the Vehicle in Wisconsin?
As of 2017, Wisconsin remains the only state in which a first offense drunk driving charge is a civil offense, not a crime. However, if a minor is in the car, it does not matter that this is your first OWI. You will automatically be charged with a crime. If convicted, you could face penalties reflective of a criminal OWI second offense, which is up to six months imprisonment, as opposed to no jail time had the minor not been present.
Additionally, the crime carries a maximum fine of $1,100 and a potential driver's license revocation of 18 months, not to mention the confusion regarding potential ignition interlock device (IID) installation. Despite this being a criminal offense, the IID requirement follows the same guidelines as a first civil offense, that is, if the result of your breath or blood is a one five (0.15) or higher, you'd be required to install the IID. Many prosecutors, however, believe IID applies in all OWI with minor cases as it does in all OWI second offenses. 

How Much Does an OWI Cost in Wisconsin?
The costs associated with an OWI depend on a variety of factors such as one's blood alcohol content level, the county the offense occurred in, and if a blood draw was done. The biggest factor in determining the cost is the number of the OWI offense. A first OWI can genuinely end up costing between $800 and $1,100, while a fourth OWI can cost in excess of $10,000.

Are OWI Cases Heard by Juries or Judges?
It first depends on what number offense OWI. If it is a first offense, it then depends on the jurisdiction. If the case is located in a municipal court, then the case will be heard solely in front of a judge. Not every city, town, or village has a municipal court. When a municipality does not have a municipal court, then the case is heard in circuit court, such as in the County of Dane. With the first offense in circuit court, you have to request the trial be in front of a jury. For OWI seconds and above, these are criminal offenses, meaning you have a constitutional right to a jury trial and will automatically be granted one.

What Will Happen to My Car Insurance After an OWI in Wisconsin?
An OWI conviction will result in an increased insurance rate. However, your insurance will most likely not increase until you are convicted of an OWI. If you are convicted of an OWI, six points will be assessed to your driving record, and you will need SR-22 insurance for at least three years. Every insurance company handles OWI convictions differently, but it is not uncommon for individuals to pay over a thousand dollars or more a year in insurance following a conviction.

What Are the Penalties for Causing Injury with a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated in Wisconsin?
The severity of the penalty depends on if an individual has a prior OWI or prior chemical test refusal conviction. If an individual does not have a previous OWI or refusal conviction, then the penalty could be a fine ranging from $300 to $2,000, a one- to two-year revocation of one's license, and, if the individual's BAC was above a 0.015, an ignition interlock device installed on all vehicles titled in the individual's name. Alternatively, the court could order a 24/7 sobriety program requested for one to two years as well instead of the interlock device. This violation is a misdemeanor. If an individual does have a previous OWI or refusal conviction, then the penalties are much harsher. An individual can face a fine of up to $10,000 and up to six years imprisonment. Further, one's license can be revoked for two years, and an interlock device or 24/7 sobriety program is mandatory regardless of one's blood alcohol content for two years. This violation is a felony.

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