In Michigan, Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated is known as OWI. In other states, it is commonly referred to as DUI. There are various OWI related offenses involving alcohol and controlled substances. Here is what you need to know.

A person, whether licensed or not, shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway or a place generally accessible to motor vehicles if the person is intoxicated. “Operating while intoxicated” means either (1) “under the influence” of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance, or (2) having an alcohol content (“BAC”) of 0.08 or more (0.17 or more for a “super drunk” charge). Operating while visibly impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other substances is also illegal but to a lesser degree.

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For drivers who are under 21 years old, operating a motor vehicle is prohibited if he or she has “any bodily alcohol content.” This means the presence of alcohol or BAC of 0.02 or more.

For adults and minors, it is also illegal for a person to operate a motor vehicle with any amount of certain controlled substances in his or her system.

It’s not only illegal to drive while intoxicated, but it is also illegal to permit someone to drive your car while they are under the influence of or visibly impaired due to the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or other substances.

OWI with Increased Penalties

Certain OWI offenses have increased possible penalties. Depending on what occurred at the time of the offense and the driver’s prior record, the penalty could be increased to a more severe misdemeanor or a felony. Examples include the following OWI offenses:

  • 2nd offense within 7 years,
  • 3rd offense within a lifetime,
  • with a minor in the vehicle,
  • causing serious injury, or
  • resulting in a death.

A second OWI conviction within 7 years is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in county jail, but not less than 5 days. A third offense, anytime within a person’s life, is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and no less than 30 days in jail, if the person is also given a term of probation.

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If a person who is operating while intoxicating causes a death or a serious injury, the potential penalty is substantially increased. For example, the maximum sentence is 15 years if there is death. The possible penalty is increased to 20 years if the BAC is 0.17 or more, or if the person has a prior conviction within the past 7 years. Even if there is no prior conviction, the maximum becomes 20 years if there is a death of a police officer, firefighter, or other emergency response personnel. If the government does not forfeit the operator’s vehicle, the court will order that it be immobilized.

If the OWI results in a serious impairment of a body function of another person, as opposed to a death, the maximum sentence for a first offense is 5 years in prison. For a second offense within 7 years or if the BAC is 0.17 or greater, the maximum is increased to 7 years.

An adult driving under the influence with a minor (under the age of 16) in the vehicle is also subjected to increased penalties. This is often called “child endangerment.” Upon a conviction for OWI with a minor in the vehicle, the sentence includes at least 5 days in jail and up to 1 year in jail, and between 30 and 90 days of community service. If there was a prior OWI within the past 7 years (or 2 priors in a lifetime), the charge is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a minimum of 30 days in jail.

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Important OWI Terms You Need to Understand

“Intoxicating substance” is broadly defined and means anything, other than alcohol or a controlled substance that is recognized as a drug by official United States Pharmacopoeia, the official National Formulary, or any substance, other than food, taken into a person’s body that is used in a manner or for a purpose for which it was not intended and resulted in a condition of intoxication.

A “vehicle” includes a car, motorcycle, moped, bicycle, snowmobile, farm equipment, golf cart, a boat, and even a horse!

Controlled substances” include cocaine, LSD, Peyote, Ecstasy (MDMA), Mushrooms, Heroin and more. A qualified defense attorney should be consulted to determine if any particular substance qualifies as a “controlled substance” under the OWI laws.

A “prior conviction” means any violation of the law in Michigan or in any state within the United States if the offense is substantially similar to a qualifying offense under Michigan law, of a crime involving the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired or under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or an intoxicating substance. If 2 or more convictions arose out of the same transaction, only 1 conviction can count as a prior conviction.

Driver’s License Sanctions

The Michigan Department of State may suspend or revoke your license for either a definite period of time or, in some cases, indefinitely. In many cases, there is no hardship license, even for work, religious activities, medical appointments, or anything else. Examples include:

  • 1st offense OWI – 180-day suspension with restricted driving after 30 days.
  • 1st offense OWVI (impaired driving) – 90-day restricted driving privileges
  • 1st offense High BAC (superdrunk) – 1-year suspension with a restricted license after 45 days (with an alcohol interlock (BAIID))
  • 2nd offense within 7 years or 3rd offense in a lifetime – permanent revocation (can only be reinstated with an appeal to the Michigan Department of State Driver Assessment And Appeal Division (DAAD/DLAD)
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Michigan’s Premier OWI Defense Team

If you or a loved one is charged with any offense involving the operation of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or an intoxicating substance, the situation is serious, and there may be harsh consequences. Do not take chances with the lowest bidder or a lawyer that does not exclusively practice criminal defense. A lawyer’s experience, reputation, and commitment to fight for you can mean the difference between a dismissal or a conviction, jail or probation, and losing or keeping your driver’s license.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will promptly contact you. We are not afraid to win!