State DUI Laws

DUI penalties vary by state. Select your state below to read more about your state’s law.

Select Your State To Get Started

Wisconsin DUI Laws

Wisconsin OWI laws are confusing. Here is what you need to know.


From the second you start interacting with an Officer, s/he is noting everything you say and do to use as evidence in their case against you.

  • Stay in your car and leave your seatbelt on unless the Officer asks you to step out.
  • Provide identification.
    • Note: How easily you find your driver’s license, registration and insurance will be noted on the Officer’s report.
  • You are allowed to politely refuse to take field sobriety tests (FSTs).
    • When you do field tests, you are giving evidence that can be used against you.
    • There is no law requiring you to do these tests.
    • A Preliminary Breath Test can also be refused as it is classified as a field sobriety test. For this test, you will be asked to provide a sample of your breath on a portable device at the scene.
    • Some officers will tell you they will take you to jail if you don’t do the tests, but the Officer is going to take you to jail anyway.
  • If asked to take a post-arrest Chemical Test (breath, blood or urine test) you should do so, but request a private consult with an attorney before taking one.
    • When your driver’s license was issued, you agreed to take such a test if ever pulled over as stated under the Implied Consent Law. If you refuse to submit to the Chemical Testing, your license will automatically be suspended and you will have to pay a fine.
  • Police can generally only search your vehicle without consent under the conditions that they have probable cause, a warrant is obtained or someone in the car is arrested.
    • Remember your words can be used against you in the case.
    • Usually, the search question is veiled and phrased like:
      • You don’t have a problem with me looking in your car?
      • You don’t mind if I look in your car, do you?
      • I’m just going to take a quick look inside, okay?
    • You can politely refuse to answer questions.
      • Usually, the officer will ask you a few questions about what you’ve had to drink.
        • A simple response of “I can only answer your questions on the advice of my attorney” can go a long way in the outcome of your case.
        • You don’t have to call an attorney right then. That simple statement effectively stops any questioning by invoking your constitutional rights.
        • Even when the Officer reads Miranda rights to you, the answer should be the same.
      • After you are placed under arrest, you will be taken to jail or a testing site and then be offered a chemical test. After completing the test, the Officer may give you a form asking whether you want to preserve a sample of your test or waive a sample. Always ask that a sample be preserved.
      • As soon as the police have taken their tests, immediately make a clear request for the opportunity to obtain an independent blood draw.
        • Your attorney can explain the benefits of this simple request, as they can be huge!
  • It is not required by law to have an attorney for your case, but if you don’t have one, there is little to no chance you will have your charges reduced or waived. Judges have little patience for self-represented defendants.
  • Consult with a few private attorneys to see what the best strategy for you is.
    • There is usually no cost to do this and will provide insight to your options
    • A public defender may be able to help, but their efforts will be limited to the criminal side of the case and will be unable to assist you with the DMV actions that will occur concurrent with the OWI.
      • For most people, the loss of their license is the biggest problem that arises because of their OWI.
    • Request for a copy of your police report at the headquarters of the department that was involved in your arrest.
      • This is not mandatory, but you will be able to have more fruitful consultations with attorneys in developing your defense strategy.

Administrative Law Court – Motor Vehicle Hearings

  • Schedule an Administrative Review Hearing within 10 days after receiving an Administrative Review Request form to avoid automatic license suspension.
    • This is a strict timeline and a request for a hearing will not be accepted after the 10-day period.

Criminal Court:

  • Note: In Wisconsin, First Offense cases are charged as traffic violations unless there was an injury or child in the vehicle. These cases will either be handled in Municipal or Circuit Court. If you get more than one OWI, it will be treated as either a misdemeanor or felony case; those are handled in Circuit Court.
  • Initial Appearance/Arraignment: At this hearing, you will:
    • Enter a plea of Guilty, Not guilty,  or No Contest.
  • The State will formally file the charges against you in the form of a criminal complaint.
  • Bail will be set or you will be released on your own recognizance.
  • You may not be required to be present at this hearing if you have a lawyer and plan to plea not guilty.
  • Pre-Trial Conference: During this conference, your attorney will discuss your case with the prosecuting attorney to resolve your case before trial.
    • Plea bargains can be made at this conference.
    • Trial: This hearing carries the highest burden of proof for the prosecution because they must now prove you are “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
    • First the state and the defendant will select the jury.
    • Next, are the opening statements, present any witnesses, and then the closing arguments.
    • Afterward, the jury is retired to a private room to deliberate.
    • Everyone in the jury must agree you are guilty before a conviction can take place.
  • Studies show if you complete your OWI penalties you only have an 8% likelihood of getting another OWI but you don’t complete them you have a 28% likelihood of getting another OWI.
    • You are 3.5 times less likely to get another DUI by completing your penalties.
  • Getting through your penalties is no easy task and requires more understanding than most people have about OWIs and penalties.
  • These penalties are not created to be effortless or painless but knowing the who, what, when and whys will make your process getting through the penalties much better.
  • With your OWI, you will find timing is everything.
    • Starting a penalty too early or too late will cause issues and cost you valuable time and money.
    • Selecting the right providers for you will reduce these mishaps.
  • The systems administering the various penalties come from different governing bodies and they don’t always align properly and often don’t make sense.
  • It is no secret OWIs are complicated, each one a little different than the other.

Depending on how many OWIs you have on your record and the severity of the OWI you are dealing with now, your license will either be suspended or revoked.

  • A license suspension is a temporary removal of a person’s driving privileges where someone cannot legally drive until the suspension period is up.
  • A license revocation is a more permanent removal of someone’s driving privileges.
  • The main difference between a suspension and revocation is the penalties involved if you are caught driving outside of your occupational license hours or with no occupational license at all.
    • If you are caught driving illegally with a suspended license, the penalties involved will be civil and you will be charged with fines.
    • If you are caught driving illegally on a revoked license, the penalties will be criminal and may include jail time and other serious consequences.
  • When your license suspension or revocation period is over, you may apply to have it reinstated once you have successfully completed all the necessary requirements.
    • These requirements will include but are not always limited to completing an Intoxicated Driver Program, paying all reinstatement fees and filing for SR22 insurance.
      • You may also need to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle if you have more than one OWI conviction.