Does an OWI Stay On Your Record? By Andrew Mishlove on January 26, 2020

Taking fingerprints during an arrest/booking

Operating while intoxicated (OWI) penalties can be harsh. Yet the fallout of a drunk driving arrest does not end there. Wisconsin drivers charged with OWI may face unexpected issues related to a drunk driving arrest on their record.

Attorneys Andrew Mishlove and Lauren Stuckert would like to discuss how long an OWI remains on your record. They will then consider a potential option for erasing or sealing your record and what that entails.

OWI Charges Will Be on Your Record Permanently

First and foremost, let’s establish that if you are arrested for drunk/intoxicated driving, the OWI will remain on your record permanently.

Keep in mind that working with an attorney can help you get the charges reduced or dropped. While plea bargaining is strictly limited in Wisconsin drunk driving law, a skilled lawyer may still be successful in achieving a successful negotiation.

The Repercussions of an OWI Charge on Your Record

Having an OWI on your record can affect your life in numerous ways.

For one, your auto insurance rates will go up. Even if you have never been in a crash before and have an otherwise clean driving record, the OWI will increase the amount you have to pay for auto insurance.

Additionally, an OWI on your record could affect employment. Your current employer may cut ties with you, especially if you drive for a living. It can also be harder to find work because of an OWI on your record.

How Long Will a Prior OWI Charge Affect Penalties for Subsequent OWI?

If you have one OWI on your record, it makes penalties much harsher on a subsequent OWI charge. In Wisconsin, if you are arrested for an OWI within 10 years of the first OWI, that is considered a second offense.

What About Expungement of an OWI?

Also known as expunction, expungement is a way of sealing or erasing part of your criminal record from the Wisconsin Criminal History Repository. This means employers and others will not be able to find out about your OWI charge. You should know, however, that expunction is extremely rare in Wisconsin OWI cases, and it does NOT erase the conviction from your record. An expunged OWI conviction will still count as a prior offense. Also, expunction must be ordered at the time of sentencing. The law does not provide for post-conviction expunction procedures.  See Wis. Stat. sec. 973.015.

Expunction is only allowed for persons who were under the age of 25 at the time of the offense, and only for the types of cases listed in Wis. Stat. sec. 973.015.  So, it is not allowed for traffic forfeiture (first offense OWIs) or serious felonies. Expunction is not guaranteed, but may be ordered by the court at “the time of sentencing.” 

Will Expungement Affect Subsequent OWI Charges?

No, even an expunged OWI case will still count as a prior offense under Wisconsin law. See, State v. Braunschweig, 2018 WI 113.

If you successfully have an OWI expunged, you can still be charged with a second OWI and face harsher penalties if that second OWI charge occurs within 10 years of the first OWI. A 2018 story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covered a case in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court clarifying the limits of expungement.

How Our Drunk Driving Lawyers Can Help

Dealing with an OWI charge can be complicated. You should speak with an attorney as soon after your arrest as possible. Your lawyer will work on getting the OWI charge dropped or reduced, and can also provide advice on what to expect after an OWI.

If you’re interested in the expunction process, we can help you understand what is involved and whether or not it is worth pursuing.

Contact an OWI Attorney

If you want more information about drunk driving penalties and how they can affect you in the long run, be sure to contact our skilled team of OWI lawyers. Mishlove & Stuckert, LLC can be reached in different cities throughout the state. You can reach our Milwaukee location at (414) 206-6919, our Oshkosh location at (920) 306-8500, our West Bend location at (262) 525-0591, and our Waukesha location at (262) 207-4527.

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Andrew Mishlove and Lauren Stuckert

Mishlove and Stuckert, LLC Attorneys at Law

Mishlove & Stuckert, LLC Attorneys at Law has been rated the #1 OWI/DUI law firm in the state by Wisconsin Law Journal Reader Rankings. Our OWI/DUI specialists have been highly rated by organizations including: 

  • Avvo™
  • Super Lawyers
  • Martindale-Hubbell 
  • Better Business Bureau 

To speak with one of our board-certified OWI/DUI defense specialists, request a consultation online or call us at (414) 332-3499.

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