If you live in the Badger State or plan on visiting sometime soon, you should get familiar with the state’s drug and alcohol laws.

What are the consequences of drinking and driving? Is cannabis legal? And what kind of penalties exist for breaking the law? Read on for information about substance abuse laws in Wisconsin.

DUI Laws in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is the country’s top binge drinking state. Operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) is dangerous which is why having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more is illegal. In Wisconsin, this is known as a Prohibited Alcohol Concentration (PAC) citation.

But you can get an OWI for failing a field sobriety test even when your BAC is below 0.08%. A PAC and OWI are separate offenses.

If you drive a commercial vehicle, the BAC limit is 0.04% and you can’t consume alcohol in the four hours before you begin driving .

Driving under the influence (DUI) of impairing drugs is also a punishable offense.

Zero Tolerance Laws in Wisconsin

Young and unskilled drivers are more likely to cause accidents. The insurance industry recognizes this and so does the law. If you are under the age of 21, it is illegal to drive with any amount of alcohol in your system. Wisconsin calls this the ‘Not a Drop’ law.

Is Cannabis Legal in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin has strict cannabis laws. Marijuana is illegal in the state except for limited medicinal use. Only CBD oil with a low amount of THC is allowed for the treatment of seizures.

Other Substance-Related Crimes in Wisconsin

The following activities are illegal:

  • Having or using illicit drugs and/or controlled substances
  • Making, selling or transporting these substances

There are 10 states where minors can consume alcohol under the supervision of close family members. Wisconsin is one of them. But the restaurant or bar that serves them can be held liable for any criminal offenses that take place thereafter.

Penalties for Alcohol or Drug Abuse in Wisconsin

DUI Penalties in Wisconsin

First-time offenders face the following charges:

  • Each OWI offense has a $435 fee attached to it.
  • $150-$300 in fines
  • 6-9 months of license suspension
  • There are enhanced penalties for having a BAC of 0.15% or more. These include an ignition interlock device (IID). This device allows operation of the vehicle if the driver’s BAC is below a set amount. 
  • Refusing to submit to a blood or breath test leads to a year of license suspension and a year of IID use. 

Penalties become more severe when there are prior convictions within a ten-year period or if children were in the car at the time of the offense. The ‘Safe Streets’ option in Wisconsin can allow for shorter jail time if the offender goes for substance use treatment.

Zero Tolerance Penalties in Wisconsin

These are the consequences for having a BAC over 0.0%:

  • A $200 fine which doubles if a passenger under age 16 was present during the offense
  • Four demerit points on your driving record
  • Three to six months license suspension
  • Refusing testing can lead to six months of license suspension. If the police officer can get a warrant for a blood test, failure means two terms of license suspension.

Cannabis Penalties in Wisconsin

  • Possessing any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor for first-time offenders. This can mean up to six months of jail time and up to $1,000 in fines. Further offenses are classed as felonies.
  • Selling or delivering up to 200g can incur a $10,000 fine and up to 3.5 years in prison.
  • Cultivating up to four plants receives the same penalty.
  • Unlike in some other states, hash concentrates do not receive more severe penalties than marijuana.
  • Any vehicles used to distribute controlled substances can be seized and license suspension is possible.

Penalties for selling cannabis are more severe when recipients are minors. The same is true for transactions that take place in drug-free zones within 1,000 feet of school properties.

While we strive to provide updated information, the legal environment is dynamic. Consult with a local lawyer before making decisions that could lead to drug or alcohol charges.

Get Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Wisconsin

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there is hope. We highly recommend seeking treatment. Health professionals can assist you to get back on your feet.

Where relevant, treatment begins with a safe and supervised detox. Treatment includes therapy which is essential for understanding the causes of substance misuse. Counselors teach patients tools to avoid triggers and cope with cravings.

Getting help shouldn’t be harder than getting drugs. Contact a rehab program near you to discuss the best options to suit your needs. It’s the first step towards a more healthy and happy life.


  1. Wisconsin Marijuana Laws – FindLaw. Retrieved 23 February 2020
  2. What Are the Wisconsin OWI Laws? – FindLaw. Retrieved 23 February 2020
  3. Wisconsin Laws & Penalties – NORML – Working to Reform Marijuana Laws. Retrieved 23 February 2020

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