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Updated OWI Penalties in Wisconsin

New drunk driving laws take effect on Jan. 1, 2017.
wi drunk driving penalties multiple offenders

New 2017 OWI Laws in Wisconsin


It’s well known that Wisconsin has a terrible problem with drunken driving. We have a rate of drunken driving arrests that is just about double the national average, and has been so for decades.   Year after year, tougher laws are passed, that have little effect.  I have written before that we should have a simple dram-shop law, making it  civil negligence (meaning they could be sued for damages that result) for a tavern to over-serve a  customer (something almost all other states have).  That would do more than all of the “get-tough” policies.  More money should be spent on alcohol treatment, rather than jails.

Drunken driving will decrease in the near future, and the politicians will take the credit; but the credit is not because of long jail sentences.  Drunken driving is decreasing quickly nationwide for one reason: ride-sharing apps like Uber.

Here is a summary of the new laws:

  • First, the definition of “injury” has been expanded, so that almost anyone in an accident with a drunken driver may claim an “injury,” even if they were not really hurt.
  • All fourth offense charges will be felonies with a maximum prison term of six years, with a maximum period of initial confinement of three years, and a minimum of sixty days. This previously only applied to fourth offenses within five years of the third offense.
  • All fifth and sixth offense charges will have an increased maximum prison term of ten years, with a maximum period of initial confinement of five years, with a minimum of six months.
  • All seventh, eighth, and nine offenses will have an increased maximum prison term of twelve and one-half years, with a maximum period of initial confinement of seven and one-half years, with a minimum of three years.
  • All tenth and subsequent offenses will have an increased maximum prison term of fifteen years, with a maximum period of initial confinement of ten years, with a minimum of four years.
  • Finally, earlier in the year the legislature authorized judges to issue warrants for forced blood draws in first offense, civil traffic OWI cases.

As far as I know, this is the only traffic law in the United States that allows for a warrant for the seizure of a bodily substance. All other such laws are applicable only to criminal cases.  Of course, Wisconsin is the only state that has a non-criminal first offense OWI law.  So, while some may see it as a loophole being closed, I see it as the fourth amendment being eroded. In other words, criminal search and seizure powers being given to the place for non-criminal offenses.   If the Wisconsin legislature believes that drunken driving is that serious, they should make it a criminal offense and increase funding for the courts, prosecutors, public defenders, and especially for treatment programs. I have advocated that course of action for many years. It has not been done, I believe, for financial reasons.

Wisconsin OWI Lawyer Andrew Mishlove
Attorney Andrew Mishlove has over 30 years' experience defending clients accused of DUI. He is considered a leading authority on drunk driving defense, often teaching other attorneys the latest defense techniques.
To speak with Andrew, call 414-332-3499 or click here for a free consultation.