Do Lenient WI DUI Laws Lead to Deadly Accidents

Wisconsin has more fatal accidents due to driving under the influence than any other State in the Union. In 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available, 49% of the total number of traffic fatalities were due to a DUI accident. Accordingly, you might expect that the legislature in Wisconsin would write stronger DUI laws. However, the penalties for DUI in Wisconsin are quite lenient for first, second, and third DUI offenses when compared to other States. It’s not until the fourth and subsequent offenses, when a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02 takes effect, that Wisconsin’s DUI laws become more stringent.

In Wisconsin, DUI (driving under the influence) is known as OWI (operating while impaired or intoxicated). Intoxication refers not only to alcohol, but also to a controlled substance, a combination of intoxicating substances, or any drug that makes a person unsafe. And it’s not necessary for a person to be driving to be stopped for OWI. The definition of operation in the Wisconsin statutes is “the physical manipulation or activation of any of the controls of a motor vehicle necessary to put it in motion.” If charged with an OWI, check on the DUI Defense Wisconsin website to retain counsel.

Two or more Wisconsin OWI violations will permanently stay on a person’s driving record. But a second violation that occurs more than 10 years after the first will still be considered a first offense. However, once a person, receives their third offense, the two priors will count, even if they occurred more than 10 years apart.


A first Wisconsin DUI carries a fine from $150 to $300 and a driver’s license suspension from six to nine months; however, an occupational license is possible. It’s required that you obtain both SR22 insurance and an alcohol assessment.

A second offense includes jail time; the sentence ranges from five days to six months. Fines range from $300 to $1,100, and a license suspension ranges from 12 to 18 months. Although an occupational license is available after 60 days, or after 12 months if the two offenses occurred over a five-year period, SR22 insurance is required. Your vehicle may be immobilized, or an ignition interlock device (IID) will be required. You will also be required to undergo an alcohol assessment.

For a third offense of OWI/ DUI in Wisconsin, you can be sentenced to jail from 30 days to one year, be fined from $600 to $2,000, and your license will be suspended from two to three years. However, you may receive an occupational license after 90 days, or after 12 months if you had two offenses within a five-year period, and SR22 insurance is required. Additionally, the judge may order an IID, the immobilization of your vehicle, or the seizure of your vehicle. If a seizure occurs, the title to the vehicle must be surrendered to the Clerk of Courts, who will stamp it saying that the vehicle cannot be transferred to another party without prior court approval. Failure to do so could result in a $500 fine. You will also be required to complete an alcohol assessment.

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