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Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of drunk driving offenses in the country. Is this because the state has more lenient drunk driving laws than other states?

Penalties for OWI in Wisconsin

A first time OWI offense in Wisconsin is considered a civil matter. Its penalties include fines and possible license suspension.

Penalties greatly increase for subsequent OWIs and most often include jail time, large fines, and points added to your driving record. The severity of these consequences depends on your BAC level, your driving record, and whether anyone was injured during the offense.

How do Wisconsin Penalties Differ from other States?

Whether Wisconsin drunk driving penalties are less harsh than other states is really a matter or opinion. For example, Wisconsin first time OWI offenders have their licenses suspended for six months (generally). Other states do not require a license suspension for first time offenders.

Many assume that the high number of OWI offenses must be due to the laws that govern drunk driving penalties. But this is mistaking correlation for causation.

Will Toughening the Laws Help?

After seeing these stats, the obvious solution probably seems like it would be to increase the penalties for OWI offenses in Wisconsin. Toughen the laws to discourage people from drunk driving. Unfortunately, this fails to take into account the fact that most first time OWI offenders do not have another offense. Sure, there are certain individuals who have a mind blowing 5-10 OWI charges on their record. These people likely have substance abuse issues that need to be treated in order to prevent future offenses.

Each OWI case should be judged by its unique set of circumstances, and a ruling handed down by a judge or jury. Simply upping the standard penalties for OWI charges is not likely to curb the problem.