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Wisconsin DUI (OWI) Laws

Wisconsin differs from other states in that it has two alcohol related offenses.  The first, and most common, is operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant; also known as OWI.  This offense requires that the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is materially impaired by consumption of alcohol, a controlled substance, or a combination of the two.   The second offense is operating a vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration; also known as PAC.  This offense differs from OWI in that it requires that a person’s alcohol concentration be over the legal limit.  The legal limit BAC will vary depending on the number of prior OWI, PAC, or refusal convictions a driver has had.   In the state of Wisconsin, the legal limit BAC is .08 for first, second and third OWI offenses.  After that, the legal limit BAC allowed decreases to .02 for the fourth and all subsequent infractions.  Initially, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence is not a criminal offense.  Once a driver has a second or greater offense, the charge will be criminal.

The Wisconsin statute defines that a driver is under the influence when their ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired.  It further states that a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired if they are less able to safely control the vehicle because of the consumption of alcohol or controlled substances.

The statute also stipulates that any person who causes the death of another as a result of operating or driving while intoxicated will be charged with a felony offense, no matter if it is the individual’s first offense or fourth.  The fact that a death is involved automatically catapults the offense to a felony.   Additionally, any OUI offense that is the fourth or more is considered a felony.

A person can be arrested for DUI when the officer who stopped the driver has probable cause.  Once the officer has made the stop, he or she can administer a field sobriety test.  After administering the test, if the results are enough to satisfy the officer that the driver has been drinking, the officer can arrest them for OWI.  If the driver refuses to take the field sobriety test, then most likely the officer will consider that probable cause and the driver will be arrested.  The officer can also request that you submit to a breath analyzer test.


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