What’s the difference between an OWI and a DUI in Wisconsin?

States use different acronyms to describe drunk driving offenses depending on how they define the offense. Wisconsin law uses the acronym OWI, which stands for Operating While Intoxicated.

One key distinction between an OWI and a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) is that you do not necessarily have to be  driving the vehicle to be charged with an OWI. This distinction is crucial, because it broadens the scope of what can be considered an offense. For example, if you were found sitting in the driver’s seat with the engine running — even if you were not currently driving or moving the vehicle — you could still be charged with an OWI if your BAC is above the legal limit.

With that being said, the OWI and DUI acronyms are often used interchangeably when referencing OWI/DUI charges.

Do you lose your license immediately after a DUI in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, driving is considered a privilege, not a right. If you have been charged with an OWI, your driver’s license is in jeopardy.

If a law enforcement officer suspects that you may be operating your car above the legal blood alcohol limit, they may ask you to submit to field sobriety testing. It is important to note that you do not have to submit to this roadside testing. With that being said, you must submit to chemical testing if you are arrested. If you refuse to complete the chemical testing, Wisconsin DUI laws dictate that your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for one year.

DUI arrests require law enforcement to take your license and issue a temporary license, at which point you have 30 days to request an administrative hearing to challenge the revocation. It is in your best interest to contact an attorney with experience handling DUI charges immediately to schedule the hearing and potentially avoid suspension.

If you are convicted of an OWI, the status of your driver’s license will depend on the number of prior OWI convictions on your record.

  • First DUI conviction: One year license revocation
  • Second DUI conviction occurring within 10 years of your first offense: Two year license revocation
  • Third DUI conviction within 10 years of second offense: Three year license revocation.

If you are convicted of an OWI and fail to properly obtain an occupational license or fail to properly reinstate your license, your license will remain revoked indefinitely. Partnering with an experienced DWI attorney is the smartest way to combat this penalty and defend yourself against charges made against you. We can help you get your license back and avoid additional criminal charges like Operating After Revocation, which can lead to substantial fines and even up to a year in jail.

Is a DUI a felony or misdemeanor in Wisconsin?

The classification of a DUI offense as a felony or misdemeanor depends on several factors, including your BAC, number of prior convictions, and the extent of aggravated driving.

  • A first offense OWI in Wisconsin is considered a civil offense rather than a criminal offense. The severity of fines and other penalties — such as driver’s license suspension, largely depends on the circumstances of your arrest.
  • Second and third OWIs are typically classified as a misdemeanor. After your first OWI, penalties for repeat offenses become more substantial. Mandatory fines and jail time are imposed for third offense OWIs.
  • A fourth OWI is a Class H felony in Wisconsin. Class H felony convictions are punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and/or up to 6 years imprisonment.
  • A fifth OWI offense and subsequent convictions are classified as a Class G felony in Wisconsin. Class G felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

It is critical to retain an experienced OWI defense attorney from the moment you are arrested for your first OWI to avoid the escalating penalties of subsequent offenses.

Can you get an OWI reduced in Wisconsin?

The specific circumstances of each case play a significant role in determining whether a reduction is feasible. Mitigating factors such as a low BAC, cooperative behavior during the arrest, or lack of prior criminal convictions may increase the potential for a reduction in charges.

By far, you will have the best chance of getting your OWI charges reduced or even dismissed if you retain the counsel of a skilled defense attorney. At Maciolek Law Group, our attorneys have helped countless clients successfully get their charges reduced through negotiation and plea bargaining.

Contact the Best Wisconsin OWI Attorneys

You don’t want to face drunk driving charges in Wisconsin without an experienced OWI attorney. If you’ve been charged with an OWI offense, Contact us today in the Green Bay Area at 920-567-6177, or in the Sun Prairie Area at 608-403-3252 or contact us online for a free consultation with our team.

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