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| Bradshaw & Bryant PLLC

This week the state of Wisconsin toughened their drunk driving laws:

first offense drunk driving in most cases is equivalent to a traffic ticket. Under the new legislation, if there is a child in the car– it becomes a misdemeanor. it also raises fees for offenders… and makes a fourth offense a felony rather than a fifth.

The hope is that the tighter laws will lower the usual holiday increases. If nothing else "My hope and the hope of any officer out there, is that this will have a deterrent affect against someone who chooses to drive again while they’re drunk," said Captain Matt Markon with the Superior Police Department.

The laws are still lower than what happens with the same offenses in Minnesota:

A first DWI in the Minnesota is considered a misdemeanor. If the offender has a blood alcohol content of .20 or above, or has a child in the car, it becomes a gross misdemeanor. If a person gets three DWI’s in ten years, it’s a felony.

Minnesota’s who are caught in Wisconsin will also face issues with their driver licenses in Minnesota and can have those out of state offenses used against them in subsequent driving offenses here.

Just another reminder why not to drink and drive.


  1. Gravatar for Steve Lombardi
    Steve Lombardi

    Mike: At first I thought you were joking about what Wisconsin and Minn. do to OWI 1st offenses but then realized this is REALLY the law! Are they kidding? In Iowa it's far from a slap on the wrist.


    Iowa's OWI 1st (operating while intoxicated) law states that it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle in Iowa in any of the following conditions.

    •While under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or other drug or a combination of such substances

    •While having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more

    •While having any amount of a controlled substance in one’s body

    Iowa’s implied consent law means that any person who operates a motor vehicle in the state agrees to have a blood, breath and/or urine test performed to determine alcohol level or presence of drugs, whenever a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person is operating under the influence.

    When a chemical test indicates an alcohol level of .08 or more or the presence of a controlled substance, and the person has had no OWI-related revocations in the previous 12 years, the person may apply for a temporary restricted license.

    If an accident occurred or their blood alcohol content (BAC) level was greater than .15, the person must wait 30 days from the effective date of the sanction.

    An individual must install an ignition interlock device, if the BAC level was greater than .10 or an accident occurred.

    *Persons under age 21 are ineligible for a temporary restricted license until 60 days have passed from the effective date of the sanction.


    Criminal Penalties

    First Offense:

    Serious Misdemeanor: Punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500.

    Mandatory Minimum Penalty: 2 days in jail and a $1,000 fine plus 30% government surcharge of $300.

    Note: you may be eligible for a deferred judgment if: you did not refuse the direct breath test at the station; your BAC was under .15; you have no prior conviction or deferred judgment for OWI; and there was no bodily injury to another person.

    Second Offense:

    Convictions and deferred judgments in the last 12 years in any state are counted as prior offenses.

    Aggravated Misdemeanor: Punishable by up to 2 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

    Mandatory Minimum Penalty: 7 days in jail and a fine of at least $1,500.

    Third Offense

    This is the highest level of OWI obtainable in the State of Iowa. All subsequent convictions after 3rd offense are counted as 3rd offenses.

    Class D Felony: Punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $7,500.

    Mandatory Minimum Penalty: 30 days in jail and a fine of $2,500

  2. Gravatar for Mike Bryant
    Mike Bryant

    I was surprised by the first time charges in Wisconsin also. What is interesting about the issue, is that there are some in Minnesota that are looking at changing the law here to make is quicker and to save money. The drivers licenses hearing can be separate and the question is if that should be combined or should follow the criminal case. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment about the Iowa law.

  3. Gravatar for Thomas Gallagher
    Thomas Gallagher

    As a DWI Lawyer in Minneapolis, I have cases involving Wisconsin priors. Wisconsin's more lenient treatment of 1st time DWI arrestees, I recall, extends only to the criminal side. Most DWI (or OWI in Wisconsin) arrests in Minnesota lead to at least two, separate legal actions agaisnt the driver - the criminal-DWI case, and the adminstrative drivers-license revocation case (under the so-called implied consent statute). Over the years, the laws have been altered to shift most of the penalties off of the DWI-criminal case, and on to the adminstrative drivers-license revocation case. Most drivers are aware of the DWI-criminal case, since they have a summons and a court date. But most are unaware of the adminstrative drivers-license revocation case, which takes away their license and presumes them guilty unless they take the affirmative step of filing a request for a hearing with the court. In Minnesota this must be done within 30 days or it is forever too late! In Wisconsin, last time I checked it was only ten days!

    I think the Wisconsin first time DWI arrest situation, makes it more likely that an innocent person there will wrongly get a DWI-IC record without knowing their rights or having a fair chance at due process. Anyone getting an OWI (DWI) ticket or arrest in Wisconsin should consult a Wisconsin DWI lawyer right away, keeping in mind the ten day limit.

  4. Gravatar for Mike Bryant
    Mike Bryant

    Good Point Tom, thanks for taking the time to read and to add the cross state difference with the IC.

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