People in Oshkosh and throughout the Fox Valley area probably dread getting pulled over by local police, especially after they have been out with friends or recently enjoyed a family or social gathering.

They may well know that a drunk driving charge, called an OWI in Wisconsin, can carry some serious penalties.

First-time offense

Even a first-time offense by someone over 21 and with no aggravating circumstances can carry a stiff penalty. In addition to having a criminal conviction, a person will face over $500 in fines and other fees and will lose his or her license for at least 6 months and up to 9 months.

Additionally, if a person has over .15 blood alcohol content at the time of the offense, he or she will either have to agree to use an ignition interlock device, at their expense, for 1 year or will have to complete a special sobriety program.

Enhanced penalties

In Wisconsin, the penalties will get more severe with repeat OWIs or when someone gets hurt because of a drunk driving. For instance, a second offense can mean up to 6 months in jail if a person has a prior OWI within 10 years or a serious drunk driving charge from the past.

A license suspension of up to 18 months after one’s release from jail as well as an ignition interlock device are possibilities.

After one’s third offense, a person must ordinarily spend at least some time in jail without the possibility of probation.

If because of an OWI someone gets injured, jail time will automatically be on the table even if a person has not prior drunk driving charges. If the injury is serious enough, the accused will face a felony and years or even decades in prison.

Child under 16 in vehicle

An interesting feature about Wisconsin’s laws is that they apply enhanced punishments to people who commit an OWI with a person under 16 in the car.

For instance, a first offense with no aggravating circumstances can land in person a jail from between 5 days and 6 months.  The court may also suspend that person’s license, or require an ignition interlock device, for up to 18 months altogether.

The bottom line is that a Wisconsin resident should take any OWI charge seriously and should carefully evaluate their legal options.