How OWIs In The State Of Wisconsin Work

Candace Lightner and Senator Michael Barnes
Candace Lightner and Senator D- MD Michael Barnes. Candace Lightner worked with Michael Barnes and other legislators to change drunk driving laws countrywide. Lightner lost her daughter, Cari, to a drunk driver that had just been released from his 4th offense, and hit Cari as she was walking to a church event.

According to Wisconsin state law, It is illegal in Wisconsin for a driver over the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher, while under the influence of an intoxicant, with a detectable amount of a controlled substance in their blood, or while under the influence of a controlled substance. Drivers under the age of 21 are to maintain complete sobriety, and any amount of alcohol detected during a traffic stop will result in a potential OWI.

A driver is defined as under the influence when their ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired, meaning their ability to control the vehicle is hindered by consumed inebriants. Practically, this means that an officer may be able to arrest an offender at a traffic stop if that offender was driving unsafely, regardless of their BAC. All OWI punishments result in an OWI surcharge of $435 in addition to the below punishments.

“An officer may be able to arrest an offender at a traffic stop if that offender was driving unsafely, regardless of their BAC.”

ALCOHOL-INVOLVED DEATHS
Persons Killed in Crashes Involving a Drunk Driver

Number of Deaths, 2003−2012

In Wisconsin 2,577 people were killed in crashes involving drunk driving 2003-2012

2,577

people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in Wisconsin

Rate of Deaths by Age (per 100,000 population), 2012

NATIONALWISCONSIN 6.7 6.5 21-34 1.3 1.6 0-20 3.1 3.5 35+ 3.3 3.6 All ages

Rate of Deaths by Gender (per 100,000 population), 2012

5.2 5.6 MALE 1.5 1.6 FEMALE report driving after drinking too much NATIONAL 1.9% MINNESOTA 3.1% report driving after drinking too much

 

 

Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson launch a drunk driving campaign in 1984

First time offense

  • First-time offenders face a punishment of between $150 and $300 in fines, and between 6 and 9 months of license revocation. If the offenders BAC was over .15, they must attend a year long sobriety program. If a person under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time of arrest, the offender is also punishable by between 12 and 18 months in jail, and a fine of between $350 and $1,100.

 

Second offense

  • Second-time offenders face a punishment of between $150 and $300 in fines, between 6 and 9 months of license revocation, and mandatory attendance at a 1 year sobriety program. If a person under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time of arrest, the offender is also punishable by between 5 days and 18 months in jail, and a fine of between $350 and $1,100.
  • Offenders that caused bodily injury or were convicted of an OWI within 10 years of the previous are punished more strictly. They face a punishment of between $335 and $1,100 in fines, between 12 and 18 months of license revocation, between 5 days and 6 months of imprisonment, and mandatory attendance at a sobriety program from between 1 year and 18 months. If a person under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time of arrest, the offender is also punishable an additional $700 to $2,200 in fines, 10 days to 12 months in jail, and an additional 2 to 3 years of revoked driving privileges.

 

Third Offense

  • Third time offenders face between $600 and $2,000 in fines, 45 days to 1 year in prison, license suspension for between 2 to 3 years and mandatory attendance at a sobriety program for between 1 and 3 years. If someone under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time of the incident, there is an additional $1,200 to $4,000 in fines, an additional 90 days to 2 years of jail time, and an additional 4 to 6 years of revoked driving privileges.

 

Fourth Offense

  • Offenders on their fourth offense are charged with a Class H Felony. They can face fines of between $600 and $10,000 in fines, 60 days to 6 years of jail time, between 2 to 3 years of revoked driving privileges, and mandatory attendance at a sobriety program for between 1 and 3 years. If someone under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time of the incident, there is an additional $1,200 to $20,000 in fines, an additional 120 days to 12 years in jail, and an additional ADZEF4 to 6 years of revoked driving privileges.

 

Fifth and Sixth Offense

  • Offenders on their fifth or sixth offense are charged with a Class G Felony. They can face fines of between $600 and $25,000, between 6 months and 10 years in prison, revoked driving privileges for between 2 to 3 years, and mandatory attendance at a sobriety program for between 1 and 3 years. If someone under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, there is an additional $1,200 to $50,000 in fines, 1 to 20 years of jail time, and 4 to 6 years of revoked driving privileges.

 

Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Offense

  • Offenders on their seventh through ninth offense are charged with a Class F Felony. They can face fines of up to $25,000, between 3 and 12.5 years in prison, revoked driving privileges for between 2 to 3 years, and mandatory attendance at a sobriety program for between 1 and 3 years. If someone under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, there is an additional up to $50,000 in fines, 6 to 25 years of jail time, and 4 to 6 years of revoked driving privileges.

 

Tenth or higher Offense

  • Offenders on tenth or greater offense are charged with a Class E Felony. They can face fines of up to $50,000, between 4 and 15 years in prison, revoked driving privileges for between 2 to 3 years, and mandatory attendance at a sobriety program for between 1 and 3 years. If someone under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, there is an additional up to $100,000 in fines, 8 to 30 years of jail time, and 4 to 6 years of revoked driving privileges.

 

Special OWI

  • Offenders who cause an injury but have no prior OWIs can face fines of between $300 and $2,000, between 30 days and 1 year in prison, revoked driving privileges for between 1 to 2 years, and mandatory attendance at a sobriety program for between 1 and 2 years. If someone under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, there is an additional $600 to $4,000 in fines, 60 days to 2 years of jail time, and 2 to 4 years of revoked driving privileges.
  • Offenders that have prior OWI charges and cause an injury are charged with a Class H Felony. They can face fines of up to $10,000, up to 6 years in prison, revoked driving privileges for between 1 to 2 years, and mandatory attendance at a sobriety program for between 1 and 2 years. If someone under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, there is an additional up to $20,000 in fines, up to 12 years of jail time, and 2 to 4 years of revoked driving privileges.
  • Offenders that cause great bodily harm while operating while intoxicated are charged with a Class F Felony. They can face fines of up to $25,000, up 12.5 years in prison, revoked driving privileges for more than 2 years, and mandatory attendance at a sobriety program for between 1 and 2 years.
  • Offenders who cause a death as a result of an OWI are charged with a Class D Felony (or Class C if prior OWIs are on the offender’s record). They can face fines of up to $100,000, up to 25 years in prison (40 years with prior OWIs), revoked driving privileges for more than 5 years, and mandatory attendance at a sobriety program for between 1 and 5 years.

 

“Drivers under the age of 21 are to maintain complete sobriety, and any amount of alcohol detected during a traffic stop will result in a potential OWI.”

 

Courtesy of the Center for Disease Control

Annual episodes 1993 1995 1997 1999 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 161

Source: CDC. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), 1993–2014. Available at www.cdc.gov

Note: The annual estimated alcohol-impaired driving episodes were calculated using BRFSS respondents’ answers to this question: “During the past 30 days, how many times have you driven when you’ve had perhaps too much to drink?” Annual estimates per respondent were calculated by multiplying the reported episodes during the preceding 30 days by 12. These numbers were summed to obtain the annual national estimates (see www.cdc.gov).

“According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the state experienced 24,000 convictions for drunk driving in 2015.”

President Ronald Reagan signs legislation to change the national drinking age from 18 to 21
President Ronald Reagan signs legislation to change the national drinking age from 18 to 21.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the state experienced 24,000 convictions for drunk driving in 2015. From these, 190 people were killed and another 2,900 were injured. Still, this represents an overall improvement starting from a peak in 1979, when alcohol-related crashes reached nearly 30,000, injuries tallied at nearly 20,000, and over 300 deaths occurred from drunk driving accidents. For comparison, in 2015, those number reduced to just over 5,000, just under 3,000 and 190 respectively. This represents a 61% decrease in crashes, a 71% decrease in injuries, and a 43% decrease in deaths resulting from drunk driving.

 

Candace Lightner shares the story of the creation of MADD, arguably the most influential anti-drunk driving organization.

From 1981 to 1986, under pressure from such advocacy groups as the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Minnesota’s legislature passed legislation to make DWI laws much harsher.

Besides raising the minimum drinking age to 21, the two biggest changes that were enacted were that now DWI offenders would be prosecuted with the intent to convict, and that alcohol concentration level (ACL) tests would determine if a driver was intoxicated, rather than the loose definition that had existed up to the point. Yet even determining a driver’s ACL was difficult initially. The first portal device to see field use was called the “drunkometer” and consisted of a rubber balloon filled with reactive chemicals that would change when coming into contact a drunk driver’s breath. This would finally be replaced by the more standard Breathalyzer in 1954.