What Is the Difference Between a Michigan OWI and OWVI?

In most states, the law that prohibits drunk or drugged driving is referred to as a DUI, or driving under the influence. However, in Michigan, slightly different terminology is used to refer to these charges. In Michigan Vehicle Code section 257.625, lawmakers lay out the different types of Michigan drunk driving offenses.

The first, and most common impaired driving offense, is called operating while intoxicated (OWI). The term OWI is broadly used to describe when a motorist is under the influence of “alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance,” or a combination of these substances. To prove an OWI offense, the prosecution must be able to show that the substance, whether it be alcohol or drugs, was actually in the defendant’s system. This requires some type of chemical test. For alcohol OWIs, there must be 0.08 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood. This commonly referred to as a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or more.

In some cases, chemical tests are not available, or a motorist’s blood-alcohol content comes back less than .08. In these cases, Michigan lawmakers allow prosecutors to pursue a charge called operating while visibly impaired (OWVI). An OWVI is very similar to an OWI, except that the prosecution need only show that the motorists ability to operate the vehicle was impaired by alcohol or drugs or a combination of both. Thus, there is no need to prove an exact BAC in an OWVI case.

The maximum punishments for a first-time OWI and first-time OWVI are very similar, and include:

  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to 45 days of community service;
  • Fines of up to $500 for OWI, and up to $300 for OWVI.

Of course, the collateral consequences of an OWI or OWVI conviction are too many to list and can be substantial.

While it may sound like the legal differences between an OWI and an OWVI are slight, that is not necessarily the case when it comes to the effect a conviction for either has on a driver’s record. An OWI charge is generally seen as more serious, and may result in the court requiring a defendant to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. Similarly, an OWI conviction results in a 30-day license suspension followed by a period of license restriction for 150 days on a first offense. On the other hand, an OWVI offense results in only a 90-day restricted license, which allows people to use their vehicle to get to and from work and certain other approved reasons.  The license penalties for both charges get much worse if it is not a 1st offense.

Have You Been Charged with a Michigan OWI?

If you have recently been charged with a Michigan drunk driving offense, contact Attorney Paul Tafelski for immediate assistance. Attorney Tafelski is a dedicated Michigan OWI attorney who has extensive experience handling all types of Michigan drunk driving offenses. As a result of his experience, Attorney Tafelski commands a vast knowledge of Michigan OWI law, and puts that knowledge to use for his clients. Often, he can get the prosecution to agree to reduce charges for first-time offenders. However, when a reduced charge is not an option, Attorney Paul Tafelski will not hesitate to take your case to trial. To learn more, call 248-451-2200 to schedule a free consultation today.

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