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Wisconsin OWI Laws | Felony vs Misdemeanor OWI

Wisconsin OWI Laws: Felony Vs. Misdemeanor OWI

Wisconsin OWI laws carry different fines, penalties, and repercussions depending on whether the crime is classified as a felony vs. misdemeanor OWI. Adding to the confusion, First Offense OWIs are neither. They are typically classified as civil crimes.

It is important to understand Wisconsin OWI laws and whether you have been charged with a felony vs. misdemeanor OWI because those convictions can show up on background checks such as those requested by employers or landlords.

Felony vs. Misdemeanor OWI in Wisconsin

A misdemeanor OWI is more serious than a traffic violation but less serious than a felony OWI. Both are criminal offenses under Wisconsin OWI laws and will have repercussions in many aspects of your life.

Misdemeanor OWI is charged when a driver faces OWI for the second time in 10 years or the third time in their life or if their blood alcohol content (BAC) level is 0.08% or higher. The number drops to .04% or higher if the driver was operating a commercial vehicle. You can also be charged with a misdemeanor OWI charge even with a BAC below 0.08% if you were involved in an accident that causes property damage or personal injury.

Misdemeanor OWI penalties may include any or all of the following:

  • Fines between $300 and $2,000.
  • Five days to one-year in prison.
  • Loss of driver’s license for six months to three years.
  • Ignition Interlock Device installment on your vehicle.
  • Drug/alcohol assessment and/or counseling.
  • Higher auto insurance rates.

Drivers who have a BAC of 0.15% or higher or are facing their driver’s fourth or subsequent OWI offense will face felony OWI charges. Felony OWI is either a Class E, F, G, or H felony with each carrying its own set of consequences:

  • Class H fines range from $600-$1,000 and 60 days to six years of prison.
  • Class G fines range from $600-$25,000 and one to ten years in prison.
  • Class F fines go up to $25,000 and three to 12.5 years in prison.
  • Class E fines go up to $50,000 and four to 15 years in prison.

In addition, drivers may lose their driver’s license, have to undergo alcohol treatment, and face all of the other penalties that a misdemeanor OWI conviction carries.

Wisconsin OWI laws make felony OWI charges possible even for first OWIs if the driver caused great bodily harm or killed someone with their vehicle. The fines and penalties will be harsher than usual too.

Meet with a Wisconsin OWI Attorney

Whether you are facing a felony vs. misdemeanor OWI in Wisconsin, you need legal representation. Both are criminal charges that will impact your life for years to come affecting your reputation and ability to drive and may include jail time and hefty fines. Meet with an OWI attorney at Madison’s Eisenberg Law Offices to understand the charges you are facing and to build a legal strategy that protects you throughout the process and after.

Call Eisenberg Law Offices at 608-256-8356 or email info@eisenberglaw.org to arrange a free consultation.

EISENBERG LAW OFFICES, S.C.

308 East Washington Avenue Madison, WI 53703 (608) 256-8356

Madison WI Attorneys Since 1983


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The Information Contained In This Site Is Not Intended To Provide Legal Advice. Please Consult An Attorney To Discuss The Facts Of Your Individual Situation. Eisenberg Law Office, S.C. 308 E. Washington Ave., Madison, WI 53703 USA (608) 256-8356