The Difference Between an OWI and a PAC

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Wisconsin’s OWI law contains the following two offenses: Operating While Intoxicated (“OWI”) and Operating With a Prohibited Alcohol Concentration (“PAC”). While many individuals are charged with both offenses, one of the charges will normally be dropped for sentencing purposes because they are companion charges.

An OWI charge requires proof that the individual was driving a motor vehicle on a highway and that the individual was under the influence of an intoxicant at the time they were operating the motor vehicle. The term “highway” has been determined by the courts to mean any publically owned road.  But what does it mean to be “under the influence of an intoxicant”?  In plain English, there must be proof that the person consumed enough alcohol (or other intoxicant) to diminish their ability to exercise the clear judgment needed to control their vehicle.

A PAC charge is separate from an OWI charge.  For an individual with two or fewer prior convictions for an OWI and/or related offenses, the prohibited alcohol concentration is 0.08.  If an individual has three or more prior convictions for an OWI and/or related offenses, then the prohibited alcohol concentration is 0.02.  Alcohol concentration is determined by testing an individual’s blood, breath, or urine. Where an individual is found to have a concentration higher than what is legally permitted, they will be charged with a PAC charge as well.

To be convicted of a PAC charge, there must be proof that the individual was driving or operating a motor vehicle on a highway and that the individual had a prohibited alcohol concentration while they were driving the motor vehicle.  Essentially, if you are over the established legal limits for alcohol concentration, you will be charged with a PAC.  It is important to note that if an individual tests positive for a PAC it creates a presumption that an individual was operating while intoxicated.

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