Most people don’t look at recreational vehicles as they would an automobile, and as a result they don’t consider recreational vehicle OWIs. However, under Wisconsin law, a snowmobile is defined as an engine-driven vehicle that is manufactured solely for snowmobiling. So, that raises the question, can you get an OWI on a snowmobile in Wisconsin?
Yes, you can get a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) on a snowmobile in Wisconsin. Wisconsin law treats operating a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol or drugs similarly to operating a motor vehicle under the influence.
The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for operating a snowmobile in Wisconsin is typically the same as for driving a car, which is 0.08%.
What is a snowmobile?
A snowmobile is a motorized vehicle primarily designed for travel on snow or ice, and it is propelled by a track or tracks in contact with the snow or ice. Snowmobiles are regulated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and there are various laws and regulations in place to govern their operation, registration, and use in the state.
The vehicle must have an endless belt tread and sled-type runners, or skis, used to contact the snow. All snowmobiles must be 48 inches wide or less.
Wisconsin law defines a child-sized snowmobile as a vehicle powered by four horsepower (120 cubic centimeters in size approximately) or less engine.
Who may operate a snowmobile in WI?
A driver’s license is not required to operate a snowmobile. However, there are restrictions based on age and birth year. No person under 12 may use a snowmobile unless accompanied by a parent or guardian or someone over 18. The statute defines “accompany” as being on the same snowmobile as the operator.
In addition, any rider who is at least 12 years of age and born on or after January 1, 1985, may only operate a snowmobile if they hold a valid snowmobile safety certificate. If a rider is required to have a safety certificate, they must carry proof of the certificate and display it upon request from a law enforcement officer.
What is the legal alcohol limit on a snowmobile?
Much like operating motor vehicles, it is illegal to:
- Operate a snowmobile under the influence of an intoxicant “to a degree which renders [the driver] incapable of safe snowmobile operation.”
- Have an alcohol concentration of .08 or more when they operate their snowmobile.
- If the person is not 19, they may not drive the snowmobile with an alcohol concentration of more than 0.0 but not more than 0.08.
- Have a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in their blood.
If stopped for OWI on a snowmobile, do I have to provide a preliminary breath test (“PBT”) sample?
Wisconsin state law requires a person to provide a sample of their breath for a preliminary breath screening test if the officer has probable cause to believe the person is operating their snowmobile while impaired, and the officer requests the sample before arresting the individual.
The sample is only admissible for purposes of establishing that the officer had probable cause to arrest the driver of the snowmobile. There is no penalty for refusing the preliminary breath test.
Where can I be arrested for drunk snowmobiling in WI?
Snowmobile operators may be arrested for drunk driving on publicly or privately owned land regardless of whether a fee is charged for using that property.
On private land not designated as a snowmobile trail, it does not apply unless an accident involving personal injury occurs as a result and the snowmobile was operated on the private land without the consent of the owner of that land.
Do I have to provide a chemical sample if arrested for drunk snowmobiling?
Per Wis. Stat. §350.103, any person who operates a snowmobile on the public land highways of this state or in any of the areas listed above has already given consent to provide a sample of his breath, blood, or urine for testing.
Before acquiring the sample, the law enforcement officer must inform the driver that:
- They are deemed to have consented to the tests under Wis. Stat. §350.103.
- A refusal to provide a sample is subject to the same penalties and procedures as a violation of operating while under the influence while snowmobiling.
- Besides the test requested by the officer, the driver may have an additional chemical test.
Suppose a person is unconscious and is incapable of withdrawing consent for a chemical test. In that case, Wisconsin law presumes the person did not withdraw consent if the law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe the person was operating while intoxicated.
What happens if I refuse to provide a sample?
The refusal to provide a sample is subject to the same penalties and procedures as a violation of operating under the influence while snowmobiling.
An operator is not deemed to have refused if it is shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the refusal was due to a physical inability to provide the sample or to submit to the test due to a physical disability or disease unrelated to the use of an intoxicant. The person may also contest:
- Whether the law enforcement officer had probable cause to believe the person was violating or had violated the intoxicated snowmobiling law.
- Whether the person was lawfully placed under arrest for violating the intoxicated snowmobiling law.
- Whether the law enforcement officer requested the person to provide a sample or to submit to a chemical test and provided the information required above.
What are the penalties for snowmobiling while intoxicated?
A first-time offender will be fined not less than $400 nor more than $550.
A second offense with a prior snowmobile OWI or refusal violation within five years of the current offense will be fined no less than $300 or more than $1,000 and shall be imprisoned for less than five days or more than six months.
A person who, within five years before their arrest for the current violation, was convicted two or more times of a snowmobile OWI or refusal violation will be fined not less than $600 nor more than $2,000 and shall be imprisoned not less than 30 days nor more than one year in the county jail.
Any person who fails to stop at the request of law enforcement or causes injury to another while operating a snowmobile while intoxicated will be fined not less than $300 nor more than $2,000 and may be imprisoned for not less than 30 days nor more than one year in the county jail.
In addition to the penalties listed above, a conviction will result in an order by the court to submit to and comply with an assessment by an approved public treatment facility for an examination of the person’s use of alcohol, controlled substances, or controlled substance analogs. 
Consult with counsel
If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving on a snowmobile in Wisconsin, don’t wait to secure your legal defense. The experienced drunk driving defense attorneys at Nathan J. Dineen, Attorney at Law are here to fight for your rights and help you navigate the legal process.
Our team has a proven track record of successfully defending clients in similar cases, and we’re ready to provide you with the excellent representation you deserve. Don’t let a snowmobile OWI charge derail your future – contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards protecting your rights and securing your future. Your freedom is too important to leave to chance; contact us now!