Updated on October 27th, 2021 at 07:16 pm

Wisconsin Drunk Driving Questions

What does OWI mean?

OWI refers to the basic Wisconsin drunk driving law. It stands for “operating while intoxicated” or “operating while under the influence.”  It’s what most non-lawyers refer to as DUI for “driving under the influence.”

How drunk do I have to be to be guilty of OWI/DUI in Wisconsin?

You do not have to be falling down drunk or even over the legal limit to be convicted of a Wisconsin DUI/OWI.  The prosecutor needs only to convince the jury that you were impaired to the point where you could not drive safely.

What does PAC stand for?

PAC stands for “prohibited alcohol concentration.”  This is what people commonly call the legal limit.  It is against the law to drive or operate a motor vehicle on Wisconsin highways with a prohibited alcohol concentration.  If you have had two or fewer prior DUIs, the prohibited alcohol concentration is .08 or above.  If you have three or more prior convictions, the prohibited alcohol concentration is any amount over .02.

What does alcohol concentration mean?

Alcohol concentration means the number of grams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of a person’s blood or the number of grams of alcohol in 210 liters of a person’s breath.

Can I be convicted of both operating while intoxicated and being over the legal limit at the same time?

If your chemical test showed you had a prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC), you will typically be charged with two offenses, operating while under the influence and operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration.  You can be convicted of either offense or both offenses, but only one will go on your record as a conviction.

Do I have to take a chemical test if the officer asks me to?

Under Wisconsin’s implied consent law  you are deemed to consent to chemical tests if you drive on Wisconsin highways.  You can refuse, but your license will be revoked and you may be subject to additional penalties.

What kind of chemical test do I have to take?

Wisconsin law permits breath, blood, or urine tests.  The law enforcement agency gets to choose which tests to administer. If you submit, you may request an alternative test, which the police have to provide at no cost.  Instead of the alternative test, you can obtain a test of own choosing at your own expense.

What is a preliminary breath screening test and do I have to take it?

The officer who stops you may ask you to provide a sample of your breath for a preliminary breath screening test.  The officer uses a portable device at the scene to administer the test. The officer may use the result of the test to decide whether to arrest you.  The result is not admissible in court to prove your alcohol concentration. You do not have to submit to a preliminary breath screening test and your refusal does not count as a refusal for purposes of the implied consent law.

What happens to my license if I refuse the test?

You have the right to request a court hearing within 10 days after your refusal.  If you do not request the hearing or lose the hearing, your license will be suspended for a year, or longer if you have prior refusals.  There are additional penalties. See What happens if I refuse.

What happens to my license if I test over the legal limit?

You have 10 days to request an administrative hearing to challenge the suspension.  If you do not request the hearing or you lose at the hearing, your license will be suspended for six months.  You may receive an additional suspension, plus other penalties, if you are convicted.  See What happens if I have a prohibited alcohol concentration?

I was arrested for DUI and my test results showed I was over the legal limit.  Should I just plead guilty?

No.  You should get your case evaluated by an experienced DUI attorney Germantown.  Drunk driving cases can be defended even when test results show a prohibited alcohol concentration.  A skilled Wisconsin DUI defense attorney will carefully investigate your case to identify any number of possible defenses.

If my license is suspended or revoked, does that mean I can’t drive until the suspension or revocation is over?

Not necessarily.  You may be eligible for an occupational driver’s license. The license allows you to drive only certain hours, for specified purposes (work, school, necessary household errands), and over certain routes.

Will I go to jail if I am convicted?

You will not go to jail if this is your first offense. But you will have to pay fines and other penalties and your license will be suspended.  Jail time is possible for second or subsequent offenses.  See Penalties.

What is an ignition interlock device?

An ignition interlock device is a device that is installed into the starting mechanism of a vehicle.  It requires the driver to blow into it when starting the vehicle.  It measures the driver’s alcohol concentration and prevents the vehicle from starting if the alcohol concentration exceeds a preset level.

Will I have to have one in my car if I am convicted?

Possibly.  The court will order you to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle and restrict your driving privilege to operating only vehicles equipped with the device if:
· You improperly refused to submit to a chemical test to determine the concentration of alcohol or drugs in your blood.
· You are convicted of OWI and you had an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more at the time of the offense.
· You are convicted of OWI and you had one or more prior convictions.
If the judge orders you to install an ignition interlock device, you will be required to have it in your vehicle for at least one year, and possibly longer.  You will be responsible for the cost of installation.

Are the rules different for drivers under 21?

Drivers under 21 are subject to all the same OWI laws as other drivers.  They are also subject to some additional restrictions.  It is illegal for a person who is under the legal drinking age of 21 to drive a vehicle with any trace of alcohol in his or her blood. See Minors and Alcohol. 
Being charged with a crime is a frightening experience.  Attorney Nathan J. Dineen and his staff at Vanden Heuvel & Dineen are available to answer your questions.  If you have been charged with a drunk driving offense in Wisconsin, contact us for a free evaluation of your case.