How Drunk Is Too Drunk to Drive?

Wisconsin Criminal Law Blog

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With that said, we all make mistakes. If you’ve been caught drinking and driving in Milwaukee or its suburbs, the best thing you can do is call an attorney as soon as possible – hopefully before your arraignment.

How Do Police Determine How Drunk You Are?

Sobriety tests don’t tell police how drunk you are. They simply alert police that you may need a chemical test to determine how much alcohol is in your bloodstream.

The police may measure your blood alcohol concentration through a breath test or a blood test. What they’re looking for is a specific percentage; all across the country, the legal limit is 0.08 percent.

Your BAC is the percentage of your bloodstream that is made up of alcohol. It can be a good measure of your general level of impairment, but every person’s body is unique and responds to alcohol differently.

For instance, a BAC of 0.08 percent means that your bloodstream contains 99.02 percent blood and 0.08 percent alcohol by volume. 

How Drunk is Too Drunk to Drive?

In Wisconsin, drivers with a BAC of .08 percent are considered impaired, which can still result in a criminal charge. The limit for commercial drivers is .04 percent, and drivers under 21 are held to an even stricter limit of 0.00 percent, or absolute sobriety.

Numbers don’t mean much without a bit of context. Just how many drinks does it take to reach the legal drunk-driving limit?


That depends on:

  • The drinker’s weight
  • The drinker’s age
  • The drinker’s gender
  • The type of alcohol being consumed
  • How long it takes the drinker to finish a drink
  • Whether the drinker has any medical conditions
  • A variety of other factors

In most cases, one drink an hour may be safe. Anything more than that and you could be setting yourself up for a drunk driving charge in Milwaukee.

First and Second OWI Offenses

The penalties for a conviction for operating while intoxicated, or OWI, can be very severe. 
The first offense includes fines, and your license will be revoked for 6 to 9 months. If your BAC is 0.15 percent or higher, you’ll have to install (and pay for) an Ignition Interlock Device. 
If this is your second offense, you will be sentenced to jail time that can range from 5 days to 6 months. You’ll also have to pay additional fines and costs, see your license revoked for 12 to 18 months, and be required to install an IDD.

The penalties increase for each subsequent conviction.

When Can Police Pull you Over?

Police do need a reason to pull you over, and an officer needs a reason to ask you to take a field sobriety test. For instance, the cops can’t pull you over simply because you are leaving the parking lot of a bar.

Police can, however, pull you over if they witness you stumbling from the bar to your car while you appear to be intoxicated. 

Likewise, if the police see you violate any traffic laws, they have the right—and the duty—to pull you over. If they smell alcohol or determine that you appear intoxicated, even if you’re not, they can request that you take a field sobriety test.

It will be up to the police to prove you were intoxicated if they cite you for OWI and you go to court. Police will also have to show that they had a legal reason to pull you over in the first place.

It’s a good idea to work with a Milwaukee drunk driving and OWI attorney if you’re accused of any drunk driving offense. Your lawyer can present your side in court and help determine whether the police had a right to pull you over. Additionally, your lawyer will examine all of the evidence, including police reports, to be sure that the police did not violate your rights by testing you for intoxication. 

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How Drunk is TOO Drunk to Drive - Milwaukee OWI Lawyer
Attorney Carlos Gamino

Wisconsin has extremely tough penalties on drunk driving, and if you’re not sure whether you’re over the legal limit, it’s probably best to have someone else get behind the wheel.
Criminal Defense Attorney
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414-383-6700 Milwaukee and Southeastern Wisconsin

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