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Michigan Drunk Driving Laws

Michigan Drunk Driving Laws

man sitting at bar getting ready to drive home drunk, if arrested for operating vehicle while intoxicated, contact Troy drunk driving defense law officeWhen you are facing drunk driving charges in Michigan, it is important to have an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney on your side. Under Chapter 257 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, there are many different types of charges related to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In some cases, drivers may be charged with more than one offense under the statute, and it is important to understand the distinctions among the charges as well as the different types of penalties that you can face.

We will tell you more about some of the common drunk driving charges under Michigan law and the ways a Michigan drunk driving defense lawyer may be able to help.

Understanding Michigan’s Intoxicated Driving Offenses

Generally speaking, there are six major types of intoxicated driving offenses under Michigan law, and all of them are criminal offenses:

  • Operating while intoxicated (OWI);
  • Operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor (OUIL);
  • Driving with an unlawful blood alcohol content (UBAL/UBAC);
  • Operating under the influence of drugs (OUID);
  • Operating while visibly impaired (OWVI); and/or
  • Operating with any drugs (OWAD).

When you are facing intoxicated driving charges, whether, in Bloomfield Hills or Shelby Township, it can be difficult to distinguish among the various offenses. We will discuss each of them briefly to give you a better understanding of how these offenses are charged and what the prosecution must prove in order to convict you.

Although the law is the same in Oakland County as it is in Macomb County the way the cases are handled, prosecuted and adjudicated can be very different. There are some judges in Oakland County that routinely give jail time on a first offense OWI conviction. Many Defendants have been sentenced by those judges without knowing what was coming because their lawyer that did not handle a lot of DUI cases was unfamiliar with the policies of the court they were in.  We make it our business to know the policies of the Courts and the individual judges in each court in our area whether that be Bloomfield Hills, Troy, Shelby Township, Rochester Hills or Sterling Heights. Our familiarity with OWI policies of courts in Oakland County, Macomb County, and Wayne County is excellent and can deliver value to our clients.

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) and Driving With an Unlawful Blood Alcohol Content (UBAL/UBAC) in Michigan

Operating while intoxicated is generally the least serious of the drunk driving offenses under Michigan law. This crime often is known as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) in other states. An OWI in Michigan is similar to a UBAL/UBAC offense, but the prosecution needs to prove different elements in order to convict you of these offenses.

For an OWI, the law enforcement official who stops you does not need to administer a breath or blood test in order to prove that you were intoxicated. Instead, other evidence of intoxicated can be used to prove that a person committed an OWI offense. For a UBAL/UBAC conviction, the prosecution must show that you had a breath or blood alcohol content at 0.08% or above, which is typically shown through evidence from a breath or blood test.

An OWI with a passenger under the age of 16, or an OWI resulting in serious bodily injury or death, are specific charges that come with much steeper penalties than an OWI on its own.

Operating Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor (OUIL) and Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI)

An OUIL offense is similar to, yet still different from, OWI or UBAC/UBAL offenses. In order to be charged with and convicted of an OUIL, the prosecution needs to show that you consumed enough liquor that you became too intoxicated to operate a motor vehicle, but you attempted to operate the motor vehicle anyway.

An OWVI offense is similar to an OWI, but a person can face conviction when there is only observable evidence—evidence of what the police officer can see—to show intoxication or impairment. Under Michigan law, a person may be charged with Operating While Visibly Impaired even if their blood alcohol content is below .08. The prosecutor, in those cases, needs to be able to prove that the person was impaired by alcohol or drugs to the point where their ability to operate the vehicle safely was affected.  These are often charges that can be defended.

It is important to note that there is a zero tolerance law for minors who consume alcohol and drive. Any minor with a BAC of 0.02 or higher can be convicted of a drunk driving offense.  These offenses are not punishable by jail, however, they count as a first offense drunk driving for purposes of enhancing future charges and can end up causing people great problems in the future.  In places like Bloomfield Hills, Rochester Hills and Troy convictions where a minor may have a very low BAC are still treated like serious convictions and Defendants are put on long-term probation with a lot of requirements and costs.  It is important to take all alcohol-related offenses seriously if you are charged in Oakland, Macomb or Wayne County.

Operating Under the Influence of Drugs (OUID) and Operating with Any Drugs (OWAD) in Michigan

Drugged driving offenses in Michigan are similar to drunk driving offenses. A person operating a vehicle under the influence of intoxicating drugs can be charged with an OWI, but she or he also may face OUID charges or OWAD offenses.

In general, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating drugs. A person who does so—or who is charged with doing so—can face penalties similar to those for drunk driving.  Often these charges start where a person has taken legally prescribed medicine such as Xanax or Vicodin and then added a small amount of alcohol. When stopped they often appear intoxicated or impaired. Counties such as Oakland County and Wayne County aggressively pursue arrest and prosecution of cases involving intoxication or impairment caused by prescription medications.  Even prescribed medications alone can result in charges of operating under the influence of drugs. People will be arrested and their blood will be drawn for analysis as to whether the levels of the drugs in their system are consistent with therapeutic treatment or are signs of abuse or impairment. Many such clients have developed a high tolerance for medications due to chronic pain issues.  

In aggressive counties like Oakland County or Macomb Count and tough-minded courts in Bloomfield Hills, Troy, Rochester Hills and others clients often face harsh treatment and difficult results if they are not represented by an attorney who is experienced in the unique issues involving prescription medication and is able to either challenge the claims of impairment or present the client in the best possible light to reduce the consequences.

Penalties for Intoxicated Driving Convictions in Michigan

If your case is in Bloomfield Hills, Troy, Rochester Hills or anywhere in Michigan the license penalties will be the same.  The reason for that is license penalties for OWI related charges are based upon the crime you are convicted of. There are no penalties prior to conviction unless you refused a datamaster test.  Your individual judge does not impose license sanctions. They are imposed administratively by the Secretary of State. In other words, the computer imposes the license penalty based upon your specific conviction and whether it is a first or subsequent offense.  How bad you need a license does not matter.

In general, first offenses for all of the following crimes listed above have less severe penalties than second, third, and subsequent offenses. Most first offenses are misdemeanors, and the penalties for a first OWI offense may include:

  • Fine of anywhere from $100 to $500;
  • Jail term of up to 93 days;
  • Suspension of driver’s license for up to 30 days;
  • Restrictions on driving privileges for up to 150 days;
  • Ignition interlock device in your car; and
  • Points on your driving record.

Contact a Michigan Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer

To avoid having an OWI or another super drunk law conviction, it is important to seek help from an experienced lawyer. If you need help building your drunk driving defense, an experienced Michigan drunk driving defense lawyer can help. Contact the law office of Paul J. Tafelski for more information.

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  • Bloomfield Hills, MI Office

    2525 S. Telegraph Rd. Suite 100
    Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302
    Phone: 248-221-1060
    Fax: 248-456-8470