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OWI while in Wisconsin

OWI in Wisconsin – What You Need to Know

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Although both Minnesota and Wisconsin have laws prohibiting impaired driving, there are many significant differences between the two when it comes to penalties and procedures.

t is important to be aware of these differences if you have a Minnesota driver’s license and received an Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) charge in Wisconsin.

OWI is the abbreviation most often used for Wisconsin’s impaired driving law. Violators receive two charges – one for OWI and another for having prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC).

The OWI charges stem from driving in an unsafe manner due to impairment while the PAC charge is for driving with a prohibited alcohol concentration which ranges from .08% for a first-time offense down to .02% for a fourth violation.

In Wisconsin a first-time OWI/PAC is not a criminal offense. Rather, it is considered to be a civil forfeiture. This means that although you cannot go to jail if convicted for a first offense in Wisconsin; however, a second offense can be charged criminally, regardless of where the first offense occurred. Accordingly, if you have a prior DWI conviction or implied consent license revocation in Minnesota, you could face criminal penalties even for your first Wisconsin OWI.

Because Wisconsin reports all OWI convictions to the National Driver Register, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) will revoke a Minnesota driver’s license for a minimum of 30 days upon receiving report of a Wisconsin OWI conviction.

This means that a Minnesota driver who gets an OWI in Wisconsin can face two separate revocations of their driving privileges – one from each state.

As with DWI violations in Minnesota, Wisconsin OWI penalties include a period of revocation of driving privileges based upon the number of prior offenses and the alcohol level tested. As in Minnesota, an ignition interlock device may be required to be installed in a violator’s vehicle before they can legally drive.  Additionally, under Wisconsin law, some OWI violators can apply to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) for an occupational license (a.k.a. ‘work permit’)

However, Minnesota drivers are prohibited from obtaining a work permit in Wisconsin because they do not possess a Wisconsin driver’s license. This means that Minnesota drivers will suffer a ‘hard’ revocation period in Wisconsin, which can often extend beyond the period of the Minnesota revocation that is imposed when the OWI is discovered by the Minnesota DPS.

For example, if a Minnesota driver pleads guilty to a first-time Wisconsin OWI and pays the civil forfeiture penalty, they can expect their Wisconsin revocation to last six months. Once the Minnesota DPS finds out about the Wisconsin OWI revocation, Minnesota will issue its own 30-day revocation against the Minnesota license holder.

However, if the Wisconsin revocation period has not yet run, the Minnesota DPS will not reinstate the license – and will not issue a limited license/work permit in Minnesota for the Minnesota driver until all reinstatement requirements for Wisconsin have been met.

This means that a Minnesota driver can face worse OWI revocation penalties than Wisconsin drivers and harsher license consequences than if they received a DWI in Minnesota!

DWI and driver’s license laws are complex and never more so than when dealing with driver’s license issues across multiple states.

If you find yourself charged with DWI in Minnesota or OWI in Wisconsin and are concerned about your driver’s license or are facing other traffic violations or criminal charges, we can help.

At Halberg Criminal Defense, our team approach puts the firm’s collective knowledge and experience in your corner. Our attorneys are available 24-7 — Call us at 612-334-3342.

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