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When Is Drunk Driving Charged as a Felony Crime in Wisconsin?

 Posted on March 17, 2021 in OWI

Waukesha County criminal defense attorney OWI

In most states, driving or operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is strictly forbidden and results in a criminal charge. Wisconsin, however, is unique in the fact that it is the only state to still classify a first-offense OWI as a driving offense, rather than a criminal offense. Instead of jail time as a punishment, a first-time OWI offender typically only faces around $735 in fines, a six- to nine-month driver’s license revocation, and a potential requirement for an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicles. However, charges can escalate quickly in OWI cases. Under certain circumstances, operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) can result in felony charges.

Fourth or Greater OWI Offense

If the OWI offense is your fourth or greater OWI offense, it will automatically be charged as a felony offense. A fourth OWI is charged as a Class H felony, which carries a possible jail sentence of 60 days to six years, a two- to three-year driver’s license revocation, and an IID requirement for vehicles. Charges for further offenses can range from Class G felonies to Class E felonies, for 10th or greater offenses.

OWI Causing Injury to Another With a Prior Offense

If you cause injury to another person during your OWI offense and you have a prior OWI offense or chemical test refusal on your record, you will automatically be charged with a Class H felony. You also face up to $10,000 in fines, a $435 OWI surcharge, and a one- to two-year driver’s license revocation.

Causing Great Bodily Harm While OWI

Causing great bodily harm to another person is a bit more serious, which is why the charge is a little more serious. If you are convicted of causing great bodily harm while OWI, you face a Class F felony, which carries up to 12.5 years in prison. You also face up to $25,000 in fines and two or more years of a driver’s license revocation.

Homicide While OWI

One of the most serious crimes, homicide while OWI is also charged as a felony. If you kill someone while you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you face a Class D felony, which carries up to 25 years in prison. If you have any type of prior OWI offense, you will be charged with a Class C felony, which carries up to 40 years in prison.

Our Waukesha County OWI Defense Attorneys Are Here to Help

Even though first-offense OWIs are not charged as criminal offenses, driving while under the influence is taken very seriously in Wisconsin. Many people do not realize that they could go to jail for an OWI charge, but the possibility is real if you are charged with a felony OWI. As a former Brookfield, WI police detective, Attorney Peter Wolff has a critical understanding of how the prosecution works and can use that knowledge to your advantage. At Bucher, Wolff & Sonderhouse, LLP, we aim for the best results possible for all of our clients and will use that same principle in your case. To schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable Brookfield OWI defense lawyers, call us today at 262-232-6699. We answer our phones 24/7.




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