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January 14, 2022

OWI Defense in Michigan

January 14, 2022

Being charged with drunk driving is a serious offense and one that can seriously implicate your future with penalties including severe fines, suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, and possibly jail time. Michigan criminal law refers to drunk driving offenses as Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). In other states, these crimes may be referred to as DUI or DWI, they all involve operating a car or motor vehicle while under the influence of controlled substances or alcohol. There are many nuances to Michigan’s drunk driving laws and they can vary depending on whether it’s a first offense or there are multiple offenses. Here’s what you need to know about Michigan’s OWI laws and what you can expect after being arrested for operating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Understanding Michigan’s OWI Laws

Michigan has several laws that prohibit driving drunk and driving under the influence of any mind-altering substance. There are two categories of offenses: operating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (OWI) – sometimes called a DUI – and operating while visibly impaired (OWVI) by drugs or alcohol.
In order to be charged with an OWI an individual must be:

  • Over the age of 21 while operating a motor vehicle/boat or other watercraft with a BAC (blood alcohol content) level greater than 0.08%, the legal limit in the State of Michigan.


  • Under the age of 21 while operating a motor vehicle/boat or other watercraft with a BAC of over .02%. In Michigan, this is known as a Zero Tolerance law, even though “zero” is legally defined as less that .02%.


Michigan OWI/DUI Charges & Penalties

Ultimately, a judge will determine if jail time is appropriate, the length of your probation and the number of fines you will pay within the statutory limitations. The judge’s decisions will depend on your circumstances and the number of prior convictions you’ve had within the last seven years.

If your BAC was above 0.17%, you may be charged with “super drunk driving” or a “High BAC” crime. Penalties, convictions and other sanctions ordered by a judge are likely to be more severe in these cases.

According to Michigan law, judges are able to impose the below penalties on persons convicted of an OWI.

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Operating With Any Presence of a Schedule 1 Drug or Cocaine (OWPD)

First Offense Second Offense Third Offense
Jail Up to 93 days jail (up to 180 days if BAC was .17% or greater) 5 days to 1 year in jail 1 to 5 years imprisonment

Probation, with 30 days to 1 year in jail.

Fines $100 to $500 $200 to $1000 $500 to $5,000 fine
Community Service Up to 360 hours of community service. 30 to 90 days of community service 60 to 180 days community service
Driver Responsibility Fee $1,000 $1,000 $1,000
Driver’s License Suspension Length 30 days followed by license restrictions for 150 days Driver’s license revocation and denial for a minimum of 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years) Driver’s license revocation and denial if there are 2 convictions within 7 years or 3 convictions within 10 years. The minimum period of revocation and denial is 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years)
Driving Record Impact Six points added to driving record Six points added to driving record Six points added to driving record
Other Possible Sanctions Possible vehicle immobilization.

Possible ignition interlock.

License plate confiscation

Vehicle immobilization for 90 to 180 days, unless the vehicle is forfeited

Possible vehicle forfeiture.

License plate confiscation

Vehicle immobilization for 1 to 3 years, unless the vehicle is forfeited

Possible vehicle forfeiture

Vehicle registration denial


You Need a Lawyer Who Specializes in OWIs/DUIs

Reducing or dropping OWI charges requires intensive research, time and a thorough investigation of your case. We’re here for you as your advocate and you have rights that need to be protected and enforced. We do the hard work to make sure your rights weren’t violated during your arrest by:

  • Reviewing dashcam tapes to determine if field sobriety tests were conducted properly and legally.
  • Reviewing police reports to determine if the traffic stop was performed correctly, and to ensure the police had probable and legal cause to stop you.
  • Examining breathalyzer evidence to make sure it was used according to legal guidelines.

Our goal is to identify opportunities that will achieve the best possible resolution for you. In some situations, the best outcome will be having your charges reduced to impaired driving. However, we may be able to have the charges reduced much more dramatically or even completely dismissed, depending on what our investigation reveals.

We’re also here to be your partner through the long, exhausting legal process. We’ll take care of you every step of the way. Just because you were convicted of an OWI doesn’t mean your life is over or you should suffer unnecessary penalties. Let us guide you.

The acronym DUI (driving under the influence) is used to describe drunk driving related offenses. DWI (driving while intoxicated) is also a commonly used acronym for drunk driving related offenses. In Michigan, the official legal acronym for driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is OWI. DUI and OWIs are essentially the same things, but Michigan no longer uses DUI or DWI terminology.

No matter what, expect the legal process to be a major inconvenience to your time, schedule and life. It is designed to be this way in order to deter you from repeating the offense. If this is your first offense, you can also expect your driver’s license to be suspended for 180 days. There will be no driving for the first 30 days, but you may drive on a restricted license for the remaining 150 days.

Additionally, a first offense OWI can be accompanied by fines and probation. The length and terms of the probation will vary by case and the severity of the offense. Probation can be court-ordered for as long as 18 to 24 months. Though jail time is always a possibility, most first-time OWI offenders do not go to jail.

Hire Someone Experienced in OWI Defense

There are other repercussions and life-altering consequences that are always a possibility. Some of the most common are: losing a CPL, increases in the cost of insurance, difficulties or inability to rent a car and travel restrictions. For example, people with a DUI or OWI will be denied entry into Canada for at least 10 years. It’s important to understand the next steps after an OWI arrest, as well.

OWI charges in Michigan can vary from misdemeanor to felony. In the State of Michigan, if you are convicted of a third DUI or OWI offense, you will be charged with a felony. Causing the serious injury or death of another person while drunk driving, even if it is your first offense, you will also be charged with a felony.

Felony convictions carry steeper penalties. Have your case reviewed by the Schwartz Law Group if you are facing a felony OWI charge. Call us today at 248-930-5019 or send us an e-mail