Michigan’s Super Drunk Driving Law

Operating While Intoxicated with High BAC

“Super Drunk” is a slang term that really does not accurately reflect Michigan OWI law. There are many different drug and alcohol-related driving laws in Michigan and one of the most serious is OWI with a breath or blood alcohol content of 0.17 or more, also known as OWI with High BAC.

The reason this offense is more serious than an ordinary first offense OWI, is that the potential penalty and license sanctions are greater. For example, an OWI First Offense has a maximum jail sentence of up to 93 days and a High BAC case has a maximum possible sentence of up to 180 days.  Other possible penalties include:

  • Up to $700 fine
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Up to one-year license suspension
  • 6 points on a driver’s license
  • Mandatory completion of an alcohol treatment program
  • Ignition Interlock device use with compliance after 45 days of license suspension are required to receive a restricted driver’s license. Convicted drunk drivers have limited driving privileges, are prohibited from operating a vehicle without an approved and properly installed ignition interlock device, and are responsible for all installation and upkeep costs for the device.
  • Loss of a Concealed Pistol Permit for 3 years

Refusal of a Chemical Test – Anyone who refuses a breath test the first time is given an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension. For a second refusal within seven years, the suspension is two years.

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Defenses to OWI with a High BAC

Despite the fact that many OWI Defense Attorneys in Michigan just routinely advise clients to accept plea bargains without putting up a vigorous defense, the most experienced criminal defense lawyers know that there are many viable and effective defenses to these cases. Possible defenses include:

  • Rising Blood Alcohol Content
  • Necessity
  • Duress
  • Entrapment
  • 4th Amendment Violation – Illegal Search and Seizure
  • 4th Amendment Violation – Illegal Stop
  • Involuntary Intoxication
  • Inaccurate Chemical Test
  • Flawed Investigation or Field Sobriety Tests
  • Mistaken Identity of the Driver
  • No Probable Cause for Arrest
  • Medical Condition Causing Impairment
  • Lawful Medications within Therapeutic Limits
  • Testing During the Absorption Phase
  • No “Operation” or Driving Observed
  • Driving was Not in a Public Place
  • Destruction of Evidence
  • Improper Preservation of Evidence

How Can an OWI Defense Lawyer Help?

An experienced lawyer handling OWI cases, including High BAC charges, will be able to help you in many ways, even if there is overwhelming evidence of guilt. There are basically two types of OWI cases, ones that should go to trial and others that should result in a favorable plea bargain.  Deciding if a case should go to trial or result in a plea is highly complex and it takes decades of experience to become proficient at making this determination.  As you can see from the extensive list of possible defenses, only a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney has the expertise to thoroughly review the evidence and advise a client on the best way to proceed. A lawyer’s job does not stop with drafting motions and reviewing evidence. 

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Great OWI defense attorneys will be able to clearly explain the court process to clients so that anxiety and fear are reduced and managed.  Clients should also be able to rely on their lawyers to provide advice and counsel regarding what measures can be taken out of court and even before a prosecution to put him or her in the best possible light with the court. Finally, effective representation requires a lawyer with a solid and credible reputation so that a prosecutor can be persuaded to lower charges, a judge can be convinced to order a sentence that is fair, or who can lead a jury through the law and evidence so that they find a defendant not guilty.

What does probation mean for OWI High BAC cases?

Probation means supervision by the court for a period of time.  Probation can be reporting or nonreporting and can be up to 2 years long after an OWI High BAC conviction.  Reporting probation will require a convicted defendant to make contact with a probation officer in person, by mail, by email, or by phone periodically (usually once per month or more). Other common terms and conditions of probation include:

  • Fines, costs, supervision fees, state fees, and restitution (often between $1,000 and $3,000),
  • Alcohol and drug testing,
  • Alcohol Education and Therapy,
  • Driving restrictions,
  • Possible forfeiture of a vehicle,
  • Community service,
  • Work programs,
  • House arrest,
  • Tether (alcohol and/or GPS),
  • Restrictions on transporting minors,
  • Employment requirements, and more.
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License Sanctions from the Secretary of State

All high-BAC offenders face suspension of driving privileges for one year, with the first 45 days being a “hard” suspension—no driving allowed. For the remaining 320 days, the offender may be allowed restricted privileges if they have a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) installed in the car they drive during this time period. There is a monthly maintenance cost for the BAIID in addition to the installation cost, and the convicted driver is responsible for that cost as well. In Michigan, the cost of maintaining a BAIID can vary but run as high as several hundred dollars per month. If the driver meets certain low-income requirements, there may be some cost adjustments made.

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Experienced OWI High BAC Defense Attorneys

The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has a well-earned reputation for providing the highest caliber defense on OWI cases in Southeastern Michigan. We have decades of experience and an unparalleled track record of success in the courtroom. While most lawyers offer big promises that generally just result in quick pleas and mediocre sentences, our defense attorneys will do whatever is necessary to obtain the best possible result. Don’t trust your fate to the lowest bidder, the outcome of these cases is too important to be left to chance.

If you would like a free consultation, call us today at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and a highly experienced and effective OWI High BAC attorney will promptly contact you.


We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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