The penalties for impaired driving in Wisconsin are fairly serious. While most first-time drunk drivers are able to escape serious jail time, the consequences for repeat offenders can be severe. Habitual drunk drivers, defined by the state as individuals who commit at least three drunk-driving offenses within a five-year period or at least four during a 10-year period, typically face lengthy prison sentences and severe driving restrictions after subsequent convictions.
After your third drunk-driving conviction, you'll be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Your license will be suspended for a minimum of two years with no provision for work-related early reinstatement. Depending upon the circumstances of your case, your presiding judge may order you to forfeit your vehicle and remain car-less for the length of your license suspension.
If you were involved in an accident that damaged property or injured another driver, this outcome will be all but assured. Moreover, the likelihood of vehicle forfeiture will increase with each subsequent conviction. After your fifth conviction, you'll have little chance of holding on to your vehicle during your suspension period.
You'll also need to attend driver-retraining and alcohol-education classes. As a habitual offender, you won't be allowed to take the abbreviated or accelerated courses offered to first-time convicts. Your alcohol-education classes may meet once per week for a year or more. Depending upon your level of intoxication at the time of your arrest, your judge may also order you to attend an inpatient rehabilitation program. Alcohol-related prior convictions will increase the likelihood of this outcome.
After your third offense, the burden of proof required to convict you will become lighter. Whereas the "legal limit" for regular drivers is .08, the "legal limit" for habitual offenders is .02. In practice, you won't be able to drive after consuming any alcohol.
Despite the relative severity of Wisconsin's DUI laws, few of the state's habitual drunk drivers serve lengthy prison terms. In recent years, Wisconsin's prisons have become seriously overcrowded. State judges routinely commute sentences related to non-violent offenses like drug possession and fraud, shifting the burden onto the shoulders of its probation officers and local police departments.
While you won't be able to avoid serving at least several months in prison after your fifth DUI conviction, you likely won't have to serve the maximum sentence. After your release, you'll need to serve a lengthy term of supervised probation.