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What are the consequences of drinking and driving in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin takes driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs very seriously. It is illegal for anyone over 21 to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. Moreover, it is illegal to drive if you are under the influence of any intoxicant, drug or controlled substance. Any detectable amount of a "restricted controlled substance" in your blood is illegal, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

A driver is considered "under the influence" if law enforcement determines that his or her ability to drive is impaired by drugs or alcohol. That may be the case regardless of a person's BAC. That's why it is advisable not to get behind the wheel after consuming either of these, regardless of the quantity.

Laws are even stricter for young drivers. It is illegal to drive with any alcohol in your system in Wisconsin if you are under 21.

The penalties for "Operating While Intoxicated" can have serious and long-term impacts on a person's life, even for a first offense. You can lose your license for a period of time and serve prison time. The penalties become harsher if anyone is injured or killed.

Many Wisconsin residents learn their lesson after their first OWI and never get behind the wheel while impaired again. Sadly, others do not. Subsequent OWI arrests can result in years in prison and possibly having your vehicle seized. Since 2010, if anyone with three OWI convictions gets another one within five years, that person faces felony charges.

Also, beginning with the 2010 changes to the laws, drivers convicted of more than one OWI or a first OWI where their BAC was determined to be 0.15 or above, are required to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles. People who refuse a sobriety test must also get an IID.

Many people don't recognize their level of impairment or believe they'll get caught. If you do, don't take the charges lightly. People facing OWI charges, even first timers, have a long, expensive and unpleasant road ahead of them. It's essential that you rely on an experienced legal professional to support you through the legal process and help work to minimize the impact to your life and your future.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Transportation, "Drunk driving law" Aug. 17, 2014

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