Operating While Intoxicated – Tougher Penalties on the Way?

On January 20, 2016 the Wisconsin State Senate voted on and passed a bill that would impose tougher laws on repeater OWI offenders.  As of January of 2016, a Fourth Offense OWI is a misdemeanor and only becomes a felony if your previous OWI conviction occurred within the past 5 years.  However, the proposed bill would make any Fourth Offense OWI a felony.  The proposed bill would also raise the maximum sentence for an OWI conviction in Fifth offenses and any OWI convictions higher than a Fifth.

There has also been talk in the legislature and among certain groups and organizations to make a First Offense OWI a criminal offense.  As of now, an OWI – 1st offense is considered a civil action, meaning it is non-criminal and results in no criminal record and therefore the only penalty one faces is a fine and loss of driver’s license.  No jail can be imposed on an OWI – 1st offense unless there is a child in the car at the time of the offense or someone is injured in an accident which resulted from the offense of operating while intoxicated.

Our law firm will continue to monitor any action taken by our Legislators regarding changes in the laws and penalties for Operating While Intoxicated Offenses.