Wisconsin’s implied consent law and the price of refusing a breathalyzer

Although it may come as a shock to many Wisconsin motorists, state law actually requires all drivers to submit to chemical testing - such as blood tests or breathalyzers - if they are ever arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI). Indeed, refusing to submit to testing may ultimately result in serious consequences.

Specifically, Wisconsin's "implied consent" law states that anyone who "operates a motor vehicle upon the public highways of this state [...] is deemed to have given consent to tests of his or her breath, blood or urine" in order to check for the presence of alcohol. This means that any driver can be punished for refusing to take these tests should he or she ever be arrested on Wisconsin drunk driving charges.

Keep in mind, however, that Wisconsin's implied consent law only pertains to the official chemical testing done after an OWI arrest, and is not applicable to the preliminary breath test that is often conducted on the side of the road, which is typically used to establish grounds for a drunk driving arrest. While a driver is free to refuse a preliminary breath test, he or she may nevertheless be arrested based upon other evidence and still be required to submit to subsequent chemical testing.

The penalties for refusing chemical testing following an OWI arrest include:

  • Revocation of the driver's license
  • Required installation of ignition interlocks on all vehicles owned by the driver (at the driver's expense) for a minimum of 12 months following re-licensure
  • Mandatory alcohol assessment

The length of the revocation depends on what number refusal or OWI-related offense it is.

A driver does have the opportunity to request a hearing within 10 days to review an alleged wrongful refusal. However, if no hearing is requested, or if the hearing concludes the refusal was in fact improper, the license revocation period will begin 30 days after the refusal or immediately following the hearing determination, whichever is later. Importantly, a driver can apply for a restricted occupational license in Wisconsin after the first 30 days of the revocation period of a first refusal, after the first 90 days of a second refusal, and after 120 days of a third or greater refusal.

Legal counsel is available to deal with OWI charges

Every situation is different, which is why it is often best to consult with a knowledgeable OWI defense attorney if you are currently facing drunk driving charges in Wisconsin. A skilled attorney can assist in reviewing the circumstances of you arrest and help protect your rights.