In Wisconsin, it is illegal for a person to operate a vehicle if under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is an OWI charge or operating a vehicle while intoxicated. When it comes to an OWI charge, there are two separate classifications. If caught operating a vehicle while intoxicated, the driver may face a misdemeanor charge or a felony charge. The driver’s previous OWI record dictates whether the person committed a misdemeanor or a felony.

On the first offense, Wisconsin goes easy on drivers. The first charge is not a crime. In fact, a civil offense will not result in mandatory jail time. Instead, there are fines and the potential for treatment options if necessary. On a second offense, a person has a misdemeanor charge. This criminal charge comes with jail time and fines. The OWI alcohol and drug penalties list the penalties involved. The more offenses that a driver has on his or her record, the more serious crime it is. It is the fifth offense that turns into a felony offense. The exception to this rule is that no matter what your driving record is, if you have a vehicular homicide conviction, it is an automatic felony.

In addition to jail time and fines, some judges will order defendants to undergo a treatment program. OWIs only become more serious in terms of consequences as a person drives under the influence more than once or harms someone in the process.

Do not take this information as legal advice! It is simply to inform people on the difference between felony and misdemeanor OWIs.