Michigan has severe penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances – some of the strongest in the nation. The offenses termed operating while intoxicated (OWI) and operating while visibly impaired (OWVI) can be applied both to liquor consumption and consumption of other controlled substances that affect your ability to drive.Michigan OWI/OWVI Penalties are Steep
A driver is legally intoxicated in Michigan if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or above. If you are convicted of an OWI for the first time at this level, you can face a jail term of up to 93 days, a fine of up to $500, and up to 360 hours of community service. You also face a driver's license suspension of up to one year. You can also receive points on your driving record and be required to attend alcohol or drug education classes. If you are convicted of a second and third offense, these penalties all rise accordingly.
The penalties for an OWVI are substantively the same as for an OWI, except that the maximum fine for a first-time offense is $300 rather than $500.
Our state also has stronger penalties if a driver's BAC is higher than 0.08. If a driver's BAC is 0.17 or above, it is a high BAC offense (colloquially called "super-drunk"), which carries more severe penalties. If you're convicted of a high BAC OWI for the first time, you can receive a jail term of up to 180 days, a fine of between $200 and $700, and up to 360 hours of community service. Your driver's license is suspended for a year. Points and alcohol or drug education is also required.A License Suspension Can Have Severe Consequences
Many people facing an OWI or OWVI focus more on the possibility of fines and jail time than on the license suspension penalty. Fines can be financially onerous, and being locked up can affect your ability to stay employed, your family relationships, and your standing in the community.
But a license suspension can have severe consequences as well. If you are employed, a suspension may prevent you from getting to work. If you are a student, it may keep you away from your studies. If you care for children, it may interrupt your ability to take them to activities or school. In some areas in Oakland and Macomb counties, it’s difficult even to get groceries without a car.How a DMV Hearing Can Help You Regain Your License
Fortunately, there is a remedy for license suspension in Michigan. It's called a driver license hearing request by the Michigan Secretary of State. Informally, it's known as a “DMV hearing.” It consists of presenting a case to the appropriate state authorities for why you should get your license back.
In some cases, people convicted of an OWI or related offense can appeal to have a DMV hearing to get a restricted license after they have served part of their sentence. Restricted licenses are typically granted for specific purposes, such as getting to work or school.
Folks who have had their licenses suspended, though, need to realize that many of these penalties are mandatory in Michigan. The laws may require either that the license be suspended for a period of time before an appeal is heard or that the whole period of license suspension be completed, depending on the charge you were convicted of.
There are also penalties for driving when your license is suspended.
Here's a rundown of license suspension requirements for each offense, and the possibility of receiving a restricted license.
If You Refused a Breath or Blood Test — In Michigan, when law enforcement pulls you over on suspicion of an OWI, you must consent to a breath or blood test or face penalties. Why? Because each driver in Michigan gives “implied consent” to a test when they got a driver's license. Refusal results in an automatic suspension of your license for up to one year. If you refuse more than once in a seven-year period, suspension can last up to two years.
You can appeal the driver's license suspension, but you need to do it within 14 days. It's not possible to receive a restricted license on this charge.
If You've Received One OWI/OWVI Conviction – Suspension of your driver's license is required for at least six months. You can request a restricted license, but the suspension needs to be in force for at least 30 days before you do.
If You've Received One High BAC Conviction — Suspension of your driver's license is required for at least one year. You can request a restricted license, but the suspension needs to be in force for 45 days before you do.
If You've Received Multiple OWI/OVWI Convictions – Michigan views people who have received two or more OWI/OWVI convictions in seven years or three in 10 years as habitual alcohol offenders. Your driver's license can be revoked for at least one year. Revocation is more serious than suspension.What Does "Restricted" Mean?
Obtaining a restricted license does not mean you can drive everywhere. Usually, the appeals process results in approval to drive certain places, such as work, school, or to alcohol/drug counseling sessions. You may also need to place an ignition interlock device (IID) placed in your car.
If you obtain a restricted license, you'll need to carry documentation with you proving your work hours, your destination, and similar facts pertaining to the terms of the restriction.
If you are pulled over while driving for a reason not covered under your restriction, you can be charged with driving with a suspended license. This can also lead to an extension of the term of your suspension.
The DMV hearing process can be complicated. It requires extensive documentation and a specific set of application mandates, and both vary according to your charge(s). It's a good idea to consult an experienced attorney to help you with the process and advise you of your rights.Contact a Michigan OWI Defense Attorney for a DMV Hearing
If you or a loved one has been convicted of an OWI/OWVI charge in Michigan, let us help. You may have the right to appeal your license suspension or to appear at a DMV hearing, whether you are a first-time offender or have previous convictions. Contact Michigan Defense Law for a review of your case today.