The Double First Rule

The Wisconsin legal system operates on a graduated penalty system.  This means that the more offenses an individual has, the worse the penalty gets for each subsequent offense.  For example, a person’s third offense will be treated more harshly than their first, but the penalty for a third offense will be more lenient than a 4th or subsequent offense.

Wisconsin does throw a wrinkle into its otherwise straightforward graduated penalty system with its Double First Rule.  The Double First Rule occurs where ten or more years elapse between an individual’s first OWI and their second.  Under the Double First Rule, the second offense is treated as another first offense because it occurred more than ten years after the original OWI.

In effect, The Double First Rule gives an individual two first offense OWIs for purposes of the penalty system.  Because the penalty for a first OWI is a non-criminal traffic ticket and the penalty for a second OWI within ten years is a misdemeanor, the effect of this rule is significant in terms of an individual’s criminal history.

It is important to note that no matter how much time elapses after an individual’s second OWI they will not be given a third “first offense.”  For example, imagine an individual got their first OWI in 1990 and a second OWI in 2001.  Because eleven years elapsed between these two offenses, the individual would get the benefit of the Double First Rule.  However, say that same individual got a third OWI in 2014.  Even though thirteen years passed between the second and third offense, they would not be given another “first offense” and they would be penalized for a third offense OWI.

If you have questions about how the Double First Rule might apply to your case, call to set up a consultation today.