OWI Penalties

Penalties for drunk, drugged, or impaired driving offenses in Wisconsin. 

     While the general range of penalties are set by statute, the sentence one can expect from a conviction for an impaired driving offense depend upon several factors.  Generally one can expect a range of fines, license revocation periods, jail or prison, and substance abuse assessments and treatment dependent upon the number of prior offenses, the driver's blood alcohol level, whether a blood or breath test for alcohol or drugs was refused, the driver's traffic violation history, and whether there was an accident, injury or death related to the impaired driving.  Each of Wisconsin's ten judicial districts have developed individual sentencing guidelines which take account of these various factors.

County Guidelines

1st Judicial District Guidelines

  • Milwaukee

 2nd Judicial District - Guidelines

  • Kenosha, Racine, Walworth

 3rd Judicial District - Guidelines

  • Jefferson, Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha

 4th Judicial District - Guidelines

  • Calumet, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Winnebago

 5th Judicial District - Guidelines

  • Dane, Green, Lafayette, Rock

6th Judicial District - Guidelines

  • Adams, Clark, Columbia, Dodge, Green Lake, Juneau, Marquette, Portage, Sauk, Waushara, Wood

 7th Judicial District - Guidelines

  •  Buffalo, Crawford, Grant, Iowa, Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Richland, Trempealeau, Vernon

 8th Judicial District - Guidelines

  •  Brown, Door, Kewaunee, Marinette, Oconto, Outagamie, Waupaca

 9th Judicial District - Guidelines

  •  Florence, Forest, Iron, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Menominee, Oneida, Price, Shawano, Taylor, Vilas

 10th Judicial District - Guidelines

  •  Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Chippewa, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Polk, Rusk, St. Croix, Sawyer, Washburn

     Wisconsin is the only remaining state in the nation that does not criminalize a first offense impaired driving conviction.  Thus, a conviction for a first offense OWI is a civil offense in most cases which can only result in fines and court costs, a license revocation, and the possible requirement of obtaining a substance abuse evaluation.  A person cannot be sentenced to a jail term for a first offense unless the vehicle contained a passenger under the age of 16 at the time of operation.  Whether an offense may be calculated as a first offense or as a more serious, criminal, impaired driving offense depends upon a number of factors that shall be addressed under the heading, "calculation of prior offenses."

  The Wisconsin Legislative Council has developed a report detailing the changes brought about by 2009 Wisconsin Act 100 which increased many of the OWI penalties and added many more requirements for those convicted of an OWI offense. 

Penalties applicable to all OWI convictions:

     Other mandatory penalties include obtaining a substance abuse ("AODA") assessment and driver's safety plan from an approved treatment provider, having all vehicles registered in a defendant's name or used by the defendant fitted with an ignition interlock device (IID) at the owner's expense for second and subsequent offenses and first offenses with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher.   The Department of Transportation will not issue an occupational or renewed license until a person has at least scheduled a court ordered AODA assessment and failure to provide verification of completing the recommendations made in the driver's safety plan will result in any license being suspended.  Having proof that the court ordered AODA assessment has been scheduled is also often a prerequisite to obtaining electronic monitoring, work release or "Huber" privileges for any jail sentence imposed by a court. 

     An occupational license will not be available for offenders who have had one or more other qualifying license suspensions or revocations within a one year period.  In addition, a conviction for an OWI offense committed prior to July 1, 2009, with an additional prior suspension, revocation or other qualifying offense conviction within a five (5) year period will disqualify a person from obtaining an occupational license for a period of 12 months.  A prior revocation or suspension within five years will also lead to ineligibility for an occupational license if convicted of a refusal offense. 

     The terms of a jail sentence can vary greatly depending upon the county in which a person is sentenced to serve their time.  However, it is possible to obtain "Huber" work release in many Wisconsin counties.  It may also be possible for a Huber eligible inmate to serve their sentence at home and their place of employment under an electronic monitoring program.  Each county sheriff department that offers an electronic monitoring program has specific requirements, eligibility criteria and restrictions related to their program and these requirements often change over time.  Thus, those facing potential incarceration for an OWI offense should contact the sheriff's department in their county of residence or employment to obtain the most accurate and up to date information regarding electronic monitoring and work release opportunities.

OWI with injury: 

     A first offense OWI with injury is a misdemeanor offense which carries a mandatory penalty of a fine of $300-$2,000 and a permissive jail sentence of 30 days - 1 year in the county jail.  If a minor under the age of 16 was in the vehicle driven by the defendant then the offense is a felony and fines and the potential jail terms are doubled.  Wis. Stat.§346.65(3m).

A second or subsequent OWI with injury is a class H felony which carries a fine of up to $10,000 and 6 years imprisonment.

The offense of OWI causing great bodily harm is a class F felony which carries a fine of up to $25,000 and up to 12.5 years imprisonment. Great bodily harm is defined as bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious and permanent disfigurement, or which causes permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any member or organ, or other "serious bodily injury."


 House Law Office - J. Steven House - 608.443.7522 - jshouse@jshouselaw.com -

222 S. Hamilton Street, Suite 21, Madison, WI 53703