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New OWI laws for 2017

It is no secret that drinking and driving is a serious issue. Most people have either been the victims of a drunken driver or know someone who has been. Because of the high risk of death and/or damage, it is no surprise that driving while intoxicated is illegal in every state in the nation. However, some states have drunk driving laws that are less severe than others.

As it currently stands, the state of Wisconsin is the only state in the nation in which a driver's first operating while intoxicated (OWI) charge is not considered a criminal offense. Most drivers will just receive a ticket for their first offence and a fine between $150 and $300. While many Wisconsinites are not happy with the current laws, the OWI laws are slowly changing.

Changes in OWI laws for 2017

As of January 1, 2017, any driver who is convicted of a fourth OWI will be guilty of a felony. Prior to the beginning of the New Year, the fourth offense was only considered a felony if it was committed within five years of the previous OWI offense.

According to Representative Jim Ott, who helped sponsor the law, the changes were meant to act as "a deterrent so that there's less drunk driving because people realize the penalties are getting more severe." The new law makes the fourth OWI offense a Class H felony which, under Wisconsin law, carries a potential penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and/or 6 years of imprisonment.

Current OWI penalties

One of the main reasons the laws prohibiting drinking and driving are often understood as operating while intoxicated is because the penalties are not limited to those individuals operating cars and trucks. A person can be charged with an OWI for operating any vehicle (e.g. snowmobiles, boats, dirt bikes, 4-wheelers, etc) while over the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit, which is 0.08% in Wisconsin.

It is important to note that the severity of an OWI penalty is often proportional to the amount of alcohol in the individual's system at the time of the offense. If the person's BAC is above 0.10%, the penalty may be harsher than it would have been if their BAC was 0.09% or lower. Regardless of the level of offense, an OWI charge will come with a fine and the possibility of time in jail or prison.

All of these things considered, the laws in Wisconsin are slowly becoming more severe for intoxicated drivers. A, OWI offense is very serious and should not be taken lightly, even if it is the first offense and the penalty is only a ticket. If you find yourself in the situation of dealing with the consequences of drunken driving, it is highly suggested that you seek out the services of an experienced and knowledgeable legal professional.

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