What Is the Difference Between DUI, OWI, OWPD, and OWVI Charges in Michigan?
Throughout the country, some common acronyms are used to denote drunk driving. The most common are DUI, or driving under the influence, or DWI, driving while intoxicated. And while these are more well known throughout the country and often commonly used here in Michigan as well, the actual legal terms are more focused. If you’ve been arrested, call to speak with a Michigan DWI lawyer today (248) 451-2200.
In Michigan, we have various levels of impaired driving offenses. What you are charged with will depend on many factors, including your blood alcohol content (BAC), your age, whether you were visibly impaired by law enforcement, or whether the presence of drugs was detected in your system. Commonly referred to as DUI charges, in Michigan, our charges are legally specified as OWI, OWPD, and OWVI. What are the differences in these offenses and how can they affect you if you have been charged with one?
What is Illegal in Michigan
Under Michigan law, it is unlawful to drive
- While intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or a controlled substance
- With a BAC of 0.08% or more
- With a BAC of 0.17%, considered a high BAC
- With any amount of cocaine or schedule 1 controlled substance in your system.
In addition, if you are under the age of 21, you may not
- Drive with a BAC of 0.02% or more, or with any presence of alcohol in your system except for that which is commonly consumed at a religious ceremony.
- Buy, possess, or consume any alcoholic beverages, or transport it unaccompanied by someone over the age of 21.
BAC is determined through chemical testing, which can include breath, blood, or urine tests.
OWI, or Operating While Intoxicated
OWI, or operating while intoxicated, is basically used interchangeably with the common term driving under the influence, or DUI. You can be charged with an OWI if you are driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or over. Furthermore, for those under the age of 21, under our Zero Tolerance laws, you may be charged with an OWI with only a trace amount of alcohol in your system. Michigan uses the term “operating” in the context of drunk driving cases, but the charges are similar to DUI. If you’re 21 years or older, you can be arrested for OWI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 percent or higher. The penalties are harsh if you’re convicted:
- First OWI: You may be sentenced to a maximum 93 days in jail, plus a fine of $100-500 and driver’s license suspension up to six months.
- Subsequent OWIs: You may have to pay a fine ranging from $200-$1,000, and your driving privileges are revoked for a minimum of one year. For a Second OWI, you face five days to one year in jail; a Third OWI conviction is a Felony with a minimum of 30 days in jail, and up to five years in prison.
OWVI, or Operating While Visibly Impaired
An OWVI, or operating while visibly impaired, can be charged regardless of BAC level since it is based on visible criteria. If a law enforcement officer feels that you are impaired and cannot operate your vehicle safely, you can be charged with an OWVI regardless of how much or little alcohol you have consumed. An OWVI can also be charged when an officer believes you are under the influence of drugs that were legally prescribed or taken. In other words, if you took too much medication or it affected you in a bad way you could be charged. Consequently, you can be arrested for this offense based on the opinion of a law enforcement officer. They would then seek a blood draw to test the levels of the drugs in your system. Sometimes, people are charged under the OWVI statute based upon a “combination” of drugs such as some alcohol combined with marijuana or xanax. The theory being that the combination of the drugs and alcohol have impaired the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle safely. Basically, OWVI can be charged for any number of reasons if the police believe they can prove your ability to drive is impaired by substances. You can be charged with OWVI or Impaired Driving as it is often called, even with a BAC under the legal limit, if the prosecuting attorney can prove that alcohol impaired your ability to operate a vehicle. Results of field sobriety tests, such as the Walk-and-Turn or One-Leg Stand, can be used as evidence. Plus, you may face additional criminal penalties if you cause an accident that leads to property damage, personal injury, or death to another person. Cases involving injury and death are felonies and carry maximum penalties involving prison time.
OWPD, or Operating With the Presence of Drugs
As OWPD, or operating with the presence of drugs, can be charged if you have been found under the influence of a Schedule 1 drug or cocaine. This can be charged regardless of how much of the drug you have used. These are most of the known, illegal, street drugs such as cocaine, heroin, meth as well as prescription medications that you don’t have a valid prescription for. In these cases, any trace amount can violate the statute.
A Drunk Driving Conviction Can Affect All Areas of Your Life
If you have been charged with a drunk driving offense in Michigan, your potential penalties will depend on many different factors. Your criminal history will also have an impact on the fines and any sentence you may face. Drunk driving charges are serious, and a criminal conviction can affect all areas of your life.
But the prosecution has the burden of proof when it comes to drunk driving charges, which often leaves several avenues for a defense strategy. These include challenging the reason for the stop of your vehicle, the legal authority to arrest you, any search of the vehicle and the administration of blood or alcohol tests. In some cases, your defense team can negotiate a plea deal to potentially reduce the charges and penalties. Consequently, it is critical to have the assistance of an experienced Michigan drunk driving attorney on your side when facing the criminal justice system. You only get one chance to get it right.
Ignition Interlock Devices (IID)
In some First OWI cases, a judge may require you to install an IID on your vehicle, which prevents your engine from starting if it detects alcohol when you breathe into it. For Second and Third OWIs, the IID is much more common and used for longer periods of time. In Drivers License Restoration cases the Interlock Device is mandatory and the results of the testing are strictly monitored for long periods of time.
For purposes of determining whether a subsequent drunk driving offense is counted as a Second Offense or a First Offense, the “lookback” period is seven years. A court will review your history for prior offenses when making a decision on sentencing. Even if you were charged with a First Offense OWI because the prior was more than seven years ago the sentencing judge will consider the prior offense. They will hold it against you to varying degrees depending on who the Judge is, how old the conviction is and the unique facts and circumstances of your situation. You may be charged with a Third Offense OWI (felony) if you are arrested for your third offense anytime during your lifetime. For example, if your first offense was in 1990, the second in 2000 and the third in 2010 that third can be charged as a felony. If you have a third or subsequent offense and it’s been charged as a first you should contact an experienced OWI attorney immediately as you may have been presented with a bit of luck.
Getting Skilled Legal Defense
Paul Tafelski and the legal defense team at Michigan Defense Law have the experience and skill it takes to provide you the best criminal defense possible after a drunk driving charge. We offer aggressive defense when your future is on the line. Call us at (248) 451-2200 or contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and your options.