Impaired driving (OWI) in Wisconsin

(en español)

In Wisconsin statutes, this violation is called Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). In other contexts, it may be called Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), drunken driving or operating while impaired.

First time offenders should review materials on the first OWI offensewebpage for detailed information.

Under Wisconsin law, a driver is considered to be operating while intoxicated if:

  • The driver is under the influence of an intoxicant, controlled substance or any other drug so that their ability to safely operate a vehicle is impaired even if the vehicle is not in motion at the time of the traffic stop; or
  • The driver has blood/breath alcohol concentration (BAC) in excess of what the law allows. The Prohibited Alcohol Concentration (PAC) for first offenders is 0.08* or greater (0.04* for those operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the stop);
  • The driver has a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in their blood
  • Drivers with three or more prior OWI convictions cannot operate a motor vehicle if their BAC is greater than 0.02.

*Note: Alcohol concentrations are measured in grams of ethanol per 100 milliliters of blood.

Drivers under 21 years of age are required by law, under Graduated Driver License (GDL) restrictions, to maintain absolute sobriety and, for them, driving with any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal.

Penalties for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated range from a forfeiture and license revocation for a first offense, to up to six years imprisonment and a lifetime license revocation for subsequent offenses. Additionally, more severe penalties apply if injury or death results.

Legal process and impact on driver license

Envelope Email Wisconsin DMV email service

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