Legislators Consider Tougher Penalties as Police Increase Holiday OWI Patrols

A bill that would increase penalties for repeat OWI offenses is receiving major support from Wisconsin lawmakers. The bill was passed unanimously in the state Senate in November, and police organizations have also voiced their support for the measure.

In early December, state lawmakers held a public hearing on the bill, which calls for permanently taking away a driver’s license if the driver is convicted of OWI four or more times, or if the driver is convicted of OWI twice along with two “qualifying convictions.” The qualifying convictions include certain felonies, such as homicide involving a vehicle.


The bill would also prohibit four-time OWI offenders from obtaining occupational licenses.

Some lawmakers have expressed concern that the occupational license prohibition would disproportionately affect four-time offenders in rural communities, where for many people driving a vehicle to and from work is essential to making a living.

Despite the bill’s passage in the Senate, the fate of the measure remains uncertain. In the last legislative session, lawmakers declined to pass a similar measure.

Drivers can nonetheless expect a heavier police presence during the holiday season.

Arrests for drunk driving in Wisconsin tend to spike around certain holidays. In the spring and summer months, police patrols increase around St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, The Fourth of July and Labor Day.

In the winter months, OWI arrests and collisions tend to increase dramatically around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The stakes are high in drunk driving cases, particularly if you are accused of repeat OWI. For more on mounting a strong defense, please see our OWI defense overview.