Criminal Law FAQS

Is Wisconsin a no-fault state for accidents?

No, Wisconsin is not considered a no-fault state for motor vehicle accidents. Wisconsin operates under a tort-based system in which the at-fault party is legally responsible for the damages that he or she causes due to his or her negligent actions. The at-fault party can be required to compensate the victim for property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. The negligent party's insurance carrier pays the victim damages, up to the policy limits. Because accidents often involve large expenses, many people carry more than the state's minimum liability coverage. Additionally, motorists can opt for Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which covers their medical expenses and the medical expenses of their passengers, regardless of who was at fault.

How long do you have to report an accident to the police in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin law requires you to file an accident report immediately after a car accident in certain situations, such as if the accident involves:

  • Injuries or death
  • $200 or more in damage to government property
  • $1,000 or more in other property damage
  • A vehicle requires towing
  • A deer or wildlife was killed or injured in the accident

If law enforcement investigates the scene, there are no additional reporting requirements of the drivers. However, if law enforcement does not respond to the scene of the accident, drivers must report the accident to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation within ten days. This can be completed online. You will need the following information when you complete your report:

  • Your driver's license number
  • Your VIN
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your vehicle insurance information
  • Failing to report the accident within these time limits can result in action being taken against your driver's license or in jeopardizing your personal injury claim.

Can I get an accident report online?

Yes. For accidents that occurred after January 1, 2017, you can request an accident report online here. You can look up the report based on one of the following options:

  • Document number
  • Date and Wisconsin driver's license number
  • Accident or crash number
  • Crash reports are made available after they are received from the local law enforcement agency, which usually takes between 10-15 days after the accident. You must pay a fee to get the accident report. It is available as an immediate download from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website. You can also request a copy of your driving record online, which includes accidents reported on it.

How do I get a copy of my accident report in Wisconsin?

You can request a copy of your accident report in Wisconsin online here. You will need one of the following to look up your accident report:

  • Document number
  • Date and Wisconsin driver's license number
  • Accident or crash number
  • The report is available only after the local law enforcement agency has reported it to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which usually takes 10-15 days.
  • Alternatively, you can contact the local law enforcement agency that completed the accident report for options on receiving the accident report via mail, email or fax.

Is DUI a criminal offense in Wisconsin?

A first-time DUI offense is typically treated as a civil forfeiture matter and is not considered a criminal offense. The process for this type of case is quick and does not result in possible jail time, although there are other serious consequences, including a driver's license revocation of at least six months, fines and an alcohol assessment. However, if there is a child in the vehicle or someone is injured, even a first-time offense can be charged as a criminal offense. Subsequent offenses are considered criminal offenses as misdemeanors, which can result in up to one year in jail. A fourth DUI within five years of a previous DUI is charged as a felony as is a fifth DUI over your lifetime. These convictions can result in up to five years in prison.

How long does a DUI stay on record in Wisconsin?

Most DUIs are considered a criminal offense and will stay on your record forever. However, when counting how many prior offenses you have had, only those offenses that have occurred within the last 10 years are counted. The applicable date is the date of the offense to the date of the other offense. Additionally, those offenses that occurred before 1989 are not counted.

What happens when you get your first DUI in Wisconsin?

If you are convicted of a first-time DUI (OUI) in Wisconsin, you will be subject to the following punishments:

  • Driver's license sanctions - You will lose your driving privileges for six to nine months.
    Fines - You will be sanctioned with a fine between $150 and $300. This fine is doubled if your BAC is between .17 to .199 percent, tripled if it is .20 to .249 percent or quadrupled if your BAC is .25 percent or greater.
  • Ignition interlock - If your BAC is .15 or more, an ignition interlock device will be required to be installed or you will be required to participate in a 24/7 sobriety program.
  • Treatment - Every person convicted of an OWI in Wisconsin will be required to complete a drug and alcohol evaluation, which is used to determine a driver safety plan, further need for education, treatment and sobriety testing.
  • Community service - You can be sentenced to perform a certain number of community service hours.

What is the difference between DUI and DWI in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin uses the acronyms OWI and DUI. OWI stands for "operating while intoxicated." A person is charged with this offense if he or she is suspected of being intoxicated while operating a vehicle or capable of operating the vehicle. The vehicle does not actually have to be in motion for this charge to arise. DUI stands for "driving under the influence," which can be charged when the vehicle is in motion. Additionally, a person can be charged with DUI while under the influence of other substances, such as drugs. OWI can be charged if a person is operating a boat, snowmobile or other motorized vehicles.