Schroeder & Lough

Wisconsin OWI Case Numbers

February 1. 2021

Wisconsin OWI Cases Are Remarkably Stable in Numbers

Recent news headlines have made much ado about rising crime rates around the US. Operating While Intoxicated (OWI, or driving while intoxicated DWI, or driving under the influence DUI, or just drunk driving) is a criminal charge in Wisconsin, for 2nd offenses and above. The numbers of criminal OWI charges in Wisconsin have been remarkably stable in recent years even through the COVID pandemic. The history of drunk driving charges reflects 3 distinct periods in the past 20 years in Wisconsin.

Operating While Intoxicated Charges in the Past 20 Years

In Wisconsin the most common drunk driving charge is Wisc. Stat. 346.63(1)(a), Operating while Intoxicated or OWI. From the beginning of Truth in Sentencing (2003) to 2008, the number of annual cases with a criminal charge of OWI was stable, averaging around 16,000 cases per year. During the three year period 2004-2006, the number of annual cases never varied more than 150 from the 16,000 level. In 2007 the number cases rose slightly to 16,400 and in 2008 nudged up again to 16,532. That year of 2008 is the highest number of criminal drunk driving charges in this century in Wisconsin.

Significant Eight Year Decline in Drunk Driving Cases

The year 2009 began a steady eight year decline in the number of annual cases of criminal OWI in Wisconsin. Year 2009 recorded 15,896 cases with an OWI charge, followed by declines of 1000+ cases per year for the next 3 years. The number of OWI cases declined more slowly from 2013 to 2016, reaching 10,480 OWI cases in 2016.

Stable Numbers of OWI Cases in Wisconsin since 2016

Since 2016 the number of cases with a criminal OWI charge has been remarkably stable. Cases did decline, but very slowly from 2016 to 2019, a total decline of 4% to a number of 10,083 in 2019. In 2020, the number of OWI cases dropped to 9211, which does not seem significant when factoring in the 2 month COVID lockdown which had businesses closed and people staying home. Last year, the number of criminal Wisconsin OWI cases was 10,310, on a level with 2018.

Defense of OWI cases by an Experienced La Crosse Firm

Criminal Operating While Intoxicated cases over the past 6 years have been about two thirds of the levels of 2008, but remain one of the most common criminal charges in Wisconsin. The defense of OWI charges is a focus of the law firm of Schroeder & Lough. Please contact the firm if you wish to schedule a consultation about an OWI case.

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