Being arrested for drunk driving can be daunting. In Michigan, “driving under the influence” (DUI) refers to “operating while intoxicated” (OWI). A person will be convicted of OWI if he is operating a vehicle while:
- under the influence of intoxicating liquor
- under the influence of a controlled substance
- having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more
For drivers under 21 years of age, they are already considered legally drunk if their BAC is .02% or higher. For commercial drivers (like school bus drivers), the BAC would have to be .04% or higher. It is illegal to drive while legally intoxicated.
An OWVI or “operating while visibly impaired” is a less serious offense than the OWI. Here, the driver doesn’t need to be materially impaired. There just needs to be visible indications of impairment.
Steps after an OWI Arrest
There are procedures in place after a driver gets arrested. It is essential to know what will happen next so that the person convicted will be well-informed.
- The arrested driver will have to attend an arraignment when the judge explains the charges. They need an attorney to represent them, and the judge will set bonds.
- The driver’s license will be suspended depending on the details on the case.
- There will be a pretrial hearing where the legal representation can negotiate a bargain or ask for case dismissal.
- There might be a second pretrial hearing, depending on the case. Everything can be resolved at this point, but if not, there will be a trial.
- There will be a pre-sentencing investigation before the judge finally sentences the person. There is a background check of the person convicted if there are circumstances that will either improve or worsen the sentence.
The judge will determine the appropriate punishment depending on the facts of the case as well as previous cases in recent years.
Criminal Penalties for OWI
The penalties for OWI and OWVI are more or less the same, with minimal variation. It would be the driver’s first offense if they had no prior convictions in the last seven years.
- Serving jail time – For the first offense, the maximum jail time for an OWI and OWVI is 93 days, and 180 days for those with a BAC of .17% or higher. It would be 5 days to 1 year for the second offense, and one to five years for the third offense.
- Doing community service – Both OWI and OWVI can require the convicted person to do up to 360 hours of community service for the first time offense. The judge can sentence 30 to 90 days for the second offense and 60 to 180 days for the third offense.
- Paying fines – The fine would be around $100-$500 for OWI and not higher than $300 for OWVI for first-time offenders. Having a higher BAC (.17% or greater) may result in a higher fine, which is around $200-$700. Second-time offenders would be fined $200-$1000. For third-time offenders, the fine would be $500-$5000.
- Losing the vehicle – The court can seize the vehicle up to 180 days for a first offense, 90 to 180 days for a second offense, and one to three years for a third offense. In some cases, it can result in complete forfeiture.
Aside from community service, jail time, and fines, OWI and OWVI convictions also bear license-related consequences.
Being convicted of OWI for the first time would result in a license suspension of 180 days, allowing the driver to get a restricted license after 30 days. For a BAC of .17% or higher, the suspension would be for a year, and the restricted license will be available after 45 days. There will be a more extended revocation period for succeeding offenses, as well as a longer period before the driver can get a restricted license.
For OWVI first-time offenders, the license gets suspended for 90 days (180 days if drugs were involved). However, unlike an OWI conviction, a restricted license is available immediately. The license gets suspended for a longer time for subsequent offenses.
Additional Penalties for a Passenger Under 16
The criminal and license-related penalties are more severe when a driver is convicted with OWI or OWVI while a passenger under 16 years old was in the vehicle.
- Serving jail time or doing community service – The judge can order five days to one year in jail or 30 to 90 days of community service. For succeeding offenses, it can either be one to five years in jail or probation, which includes five days to one year and jail and 30 to 90 days of community service.
- Paying fines – The driver will have to pay a mandatory fine of $200-$1000. For succeeding offenses, the fine will be from $500 to $5000.
- Losing the vehicle – The vehicle will be seized if it was not already forfeited.
- License suspension – The license gets suspended for 180 days, and a restricted license would only be available for 90 days.
Statistics of Alcohol-Involved Crashes
According to the Drunk Driving Audit prepared by the Michigan Department of State Police, there were 9,786 statewide alcohol-involved crashes in 2018. That is significantly lower than the 10,265 alcohol-involved accidents in 2017. The 10.30% crash rate got lower to 9.82%. The number of alcohol-involved fatal crashes also got lower, from 320 in 2017 down to 287 in 2019.
The Michigan State Police often emphasize getting a cab or booking an Uber or Lyft to help people get home, as opposed to driving intoxicated. Around the holidays, more people choose to drink and drive. Driving impaired will not just harm the driver but other people, too, causing crashes and accidents that result in deaths.
Contact The Clark Law Office
If you need the best representation in Michigan, contact the Lansing criminal attorneys at The Clark Law Office. Our team’s expertise and experience will surely help you with your situation. What’s more, you can receive a free legal consultation if you are yet unsure of your next plan of action.
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