Wisconsin increases operating while impaired laws

On April 25, Wisconsin increased the stakes for driving while impaired. These changes serve to enhance the penalties associated with “drunk” or “impaired” driving offenses. 

Some of the more important changes include:

1)Effective Jan. 1, 2017, all Operating While Impaired 4th Offenses will be felonies. The minimum sentence a motorist faces upon conviction for a fourth offense OWI will be six months in the jail with maximum sentence being six years imprisonment. If a minor under the age of 16 is present in the vehicle during the offense, the cost and surcharges are doubled.  

2) Penalties associated with 5th and 6th offense Driving While Impaired has increased from a six-year maximum penalty to 10 years. Seventh offenses require a minimum of three years initial imprisonment.  

3) Motorists who have received three Operating While Impaired convictions will be subject to a prohibited alcohol concentration of .02 for the rest of their lives in the State of Wisconsin. This applies even if the prior convictions did not occur in Wisconsin but in adjacent states.  A .02 BAC standard is virtual absolute sobriety for many people. The average male is projected to have a .02 BAC if he has one drink in an hour and weighs 190 pounds.

4) A basic first offense OWI remains non-criminal in nature, however, if there is a minor under the age of 16 in the automobile the offense becomes a crime punishable by a minimum of five days in jail and a maximum of six months in jail.  

5) Operating While Impaired laws are not limited to alcohol consumption. Under Wisconsin Statute 346.63, the State may charge a motorist for operating while impaired for being under the influence of prescription medications.  If a motorist ingests prescription pills to the point that they are no longer able to safely operate a motor vehicle, impaired driving penalties will apply to them as well. Because you have a prescription for an impairing medication, does not allow you to drive impaired. Finally, the ingestion of certain substances while driving such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine are not tolerated in any amounts.  

The Holiday Season is a special time to enjoy family and friends. Keeping Wisconsin’s new impaired driving laws in mind ensures a safe and enjoyable holiday season for everyone.