In an ideal world, no one would ever face a charge of operating under the influence (OWI). Unfortunately, arrests for this offense have become all too common in in Wisconsin. In 2008 alone there were over 40,000 arrests for OWI in the state, The highest rate in the country. While penalties for a first conviction often consist of fines and license revocation of up to nine months, penalties increase dramatically with each subsequent violation. For those unfortunate enough to be facing a fifth OWI offense, these penalties may be quite severe.
A fifth conviction for OWI in Wisconsin can result in numerous detrimental outcomes, including incarceration, financial penalties, and restrictions on the ability to operate motor vehicles. Incarceration can range anywhere from six months to six years, while fines of up to $10,000 can be imposed. A two to three year driver’s license revocation will be imposed.
To understand the real-world consequences more fully, let’s examine two actual cases of those convicted of a fifth OWI.
A driver from Hatley was pulled over for a defective tail light by state troopers. The troopers determined the driver was operating under the influence, leading to his arrest and his fifth OWI charge. He was treated relatively leniently, receiving an 8 month jail sentence, 3 years probation and a 3 year revocation.
Another driver, from Watertown, was arrested and charged with his fifth OWI in September, 2010. He was found guilty and sentenced to 20 months in prison, $3,700 in fines, and his license was revoked for 36 months. Though neither man received the maximum allowable sentence, they are both facing serious jail time and driving restrictions upon their release.
In addition to the revocation of their licenses, drivers facing a fifth OWI offense will be forced to use an ignition interlock device (IID) on their automobiles once they are legally able to drive. An IID uses technology similar to a breathalyzer, and requires the driver to breathe into the device before turning on the engine. If alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath, the ignition interlock device will prevent the car from starting.
Those who are eligible for an occupational license may be able to be back on the road in as little as 45 days. Not everyone, however, is eligible. In order to secure an occupational license, however, drivers must first obtain “SR-22 Insurance.” SR, which stands for “safety and responsibility;” refers to a document drafted by a driver’s insurance company and sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles. It acts as proof that the driver has, in fact, obtained insurance and is eligible to obtain an occupational license. It may be required for five years following an OWI conviction.