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Is drunk driving a crime in Wisconsin?

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Answered by: Christopher T. Van Wagner

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No, drunk driving is not always considered a crime in Wisconsin. However, if you are charged with OWI (operating while intoxicated), it is important that you consult with a lawyer who can advise you of your rights in your specific situation.

The First Offense

If the situation in which you were arrested for drunk driving (sometimes referred to as DUI/DWI) is the first time this has happened to you, it is typically not considered a criminal matter. In Wisconsin, the first DUI/DWI/OWI is considered a civil matter. Penalties and consequences still apply, and other states may view this same first offense as an official crime, so it is still serious. Calling it a civil matter versus a criminal matter may make it sound less severe and less intimidating, but it is essential that you take the matter very seriously. A skilled, insightful drunk driving defense attorney is the only one who can accurately assess the situation and take the steps necessary in minimizing the impact to your record and life as you move forward.

Repeat DUI/DWI/OWI offenses in Wisconsin are considered misdemeanors or felonies, depending on how many times the accused has been previously convicted and the severity of the situation. A conviction on a felony or misdemeanor DUI/DWI/OWI charge will leave the defendant subject to serious consequences, including the loss of his or her driver’s license for a period of time, monetary fines, potential jail time and even the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock system.

Driving Privileges If Convicted

It is no secret that a conviction on a drunk driving charge will have an impact on your driving privileges. If convicted in Wisconsin, your driver’s license will be suspended. For how long? That depends. However, many people are eligible for an occupational license, which allows you to continue with the necessities of your life, such as attending school and work, driving children to and from child care, tending to homemaker duties, traveling to medical appointments and other life requirements. There is typically a waiting period or other requirements that must be fulfilled before the occupational license is granted. Some people may have to wait up to a full year; others 45 days. Some individuals may not be granted an occupational license; some may obtain one after an ignition interlock system is installed.

Go Directly To Jail? Maybe.

You may be facing jail time. This is a typical requirement for a DUI/DWI/OWI conviction. The length of jail or prison sentence can vary widely from case to case and county to county. A highly experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney can seek the least possible jail time in your situation. Prison time is a requirement in felony DUI convictions.

Regardless of the situation in which you find yourself, you need a lawyer to ensure your rights are protected. You need a lawyer who knows the system and who knows how the courts treat drunk driving cases.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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