Do I need an OWI lawyer in Wisconsin?


Do I need an OWI Lawyer in Wisconsin?

The answer is almost certainly yes.  An OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) or DUI (Driving While Under the Influence) conviction will have a significant effect on your life.  

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Photo by James Palinsad


What’s the Difference between OWI and DUI?

OWI stands for Operating While Intoxicated.  DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence.  In Wisconsin, the legal limit for blood alcohol level is .08. OWI is charged when the police believe your blood alcohol level was greater than .08 at the time you were operating a motor vehicle.  Driving Under the Influence is charged when the police cannot necessarily prove that your blood alcohol level was greater than .08 but you were nonetheless unable to operate a motor vehicle safely because you were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.  


What are the Penalties for OWI and DUI?

Under Wisconsin Law, a first-offense OWI or DUI conviction is not a criminal offense.  However, it carries a large fine of over $800, at least a 6-month driver’s license suspension, and possibly a requirement that you obtain an ignition interlock device (known as an “IID”).  An IID is basically a breathalyzer that you must install in your vehicle.

Second and third offense OWIs and DUIs are misdemeanors and carry larger fines, longer driver’s license suspensions, IID requirements, and mandatory jail time.

  • For a second offense, the judge is required to impose a jail sentence of between 5 days and 6 months.
  • For a third offense, the judge is required to impose a jail sentence of between 45 days and one year.
  • A fourth offense is a felony, meaning the judge could impose a prison sentence of more than one year. Click here to see the recommended penalties for OWI and DUI in Racine, Kenosha, and Walworth Counties.


How Can an OWI Lawyer Help Me?

There are numerous benefits to hiring an OWI defense lawyer.  First, an OWI lawyer can save your driving privileges.  When you are arrested for OWI, you will receive a Notice of Intent to Suspend your driving privileges.  If you do not request a hearing on the notice within 10 days your driver’s license will automatically be suspended.  If you miss the 10-day deadline, there is nothing you can do to reinstate your license short of having your charges dismissed.  An OWI defense lawyer can request a hearing for you, attend the hearing on your behalf, and keep your license valid while your case is pending.

Second, there are many defenses to an OWI and DUI charge.  For example, if the police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle, all evidence will be suppressed and the charges will be dismissed.  Also, under Wisconsin law, you may not operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol level above .08 at the time of driving.  A defense to an OWI charge is that your blood alcohol level was not above .08 at the time you were driving.  This may occur because alcohol is absorbed into the body slowly, which causes your blood alcohol level to rise over time.  Thus, your blood alcohol level could be above .08 when the police took a breath sample but under .08 at the time you were actually driving.  This is commonly known as the “alcohol curve defense.”  

Because OWI and DUI charges carry severe penalties, you should consult with an OWI lawyer as soon as possible after being arrested for OWI or DUI in Wisconsin.  

Please note that this is for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a lawyer on your specific case. For additional information, visit our OWI & DUI specialty page.


Attorney Christopher M. Glinski is an OWI  lawyer in Racine, Wisconsin.  He can be reached at (262) 632-1555.

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