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Can a Passenger Be Charged with a OWI?

 Posted on March 16, 2018 in DUI/OWI

shutterstock_178343492-1.jpgIf you were a passenger in a vehicle with a drunk driver, you may be asking yourself whether you can be charged with an OWI. Although only the driver can be charged with an OWI, the prosecution may question whether or not you were behind the wheel. Let’s take a closer look at the elements of an OWI and what happens if you are arrested for one to help answer this question.

Elements of an OWI

In order to be charged with an OWI in Wisconsin, you must be driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle. The following must also be true:

  • You are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Your blood alcohol level is 0.08 or higher.

Due to the fact that passengers are not usually in physical control of vehicles, you cannot be charged with an OWI if you are a passenger. However, if a crash occurred and you are standing outside of the vehicle with driver, the prosecution may question who was actually driving the vehicle. In addition, if you control the steering wheel while you are in the passenger’s seat or the prosecution has reason to believe you switched positions with the driver following the accident, you can be charged with an OWI.

What to Expect When the Driver is Charged with an OWI


If you are a passenger and the prosecution stops the vehicle you are in because of an OWI suspicion, they will ask the driver to conduct several field sobriety tests. In the event the driver fails them and gets arrested for an OWI, they will be transported to the police station.

Once they arrive at the police station, they’ll be instructed to take a breathalyzer test. OWI charges will be brought against them if their blood alcohol level is .08 or greater. Most of the time, a bond will release the driver and they will receive a license suspension notice as well as a court date.


As the passenger, you should focus on remaining calm and finding a way to get home once the prosecution states that you can leave the scene. If a friend or family member cannot pick you up, use a taxi or ride-sharing service like Uber. You may be able to drive the vehicle home if the prosecution believes you are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and the vehicle is drivable.

Contact Our Waukesha County OWI Attorneys Today

If you were a passenger in a vehicle and the driver was pulled over for an OWI, feel free to call our experienced Waukesha County OWI attorneys today at 262-303-4916. We can make sure you were being treated fairly.

Source: http://wisconsindot.gov/Documents/safety/education/drunk-drv/owi-penchrt.pdf 

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