An arrest for operating while intoxicated (OWI) or operating while visibly impaired (OWVI) in Michigan can be serious, even if it is your first offense. First-time offenders risk jail time, suspended or restricted driving privileges, significant fines, probation and other penalties.
Michigan Alcohol-Related Driving Offenses
Depending on the facts and circumstances of the arrest, a first-time offender may be charged with any of the following:
- Operating while intoxicated (OWI) — The prosecution must show that you were under the influence of a controlled substance and/or alcohol while driving.
- Driving with an unlawful bodily alcohol level/content (UBAL/UBAC) — The state must prove that you were operating your vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level that exceeded 0.08 percent.
- Operating while visually impaired (OWVI) — The prosecution must prove that you were driving a vehicle and that alcohol undermined your capacity to drive.
- Zero tolerance — A driver under the age of 21 can be convicted with a BAC that exceeded 0.02 percent.
- CDL drivers – There are a number of offenses specifically aimed at motorists with commercial driver’s licenses. In essence, the threshold required for conviction is much lower when the driver has a CDL license.
- High-BAC offense — The state must prove that you were driving and that you had a BAC of 0.17 percent or higher at the time.
Penalties for a First-Time Drunk Driving Conviction in Michigan
Years ago, a first-time offender convicted of an alcohol-related driving offense was given the proverbial “slap on the wrist” and sent on his or her way. With the increased awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving over the past few decades, laws relating to drunk driving have changed, as have the possible penalties. This, however, does not mean that there is no room for leniency in sentencing or during plea agreement negotiations. It is also possible that charges could be dismissed because of a variety of valid defenses.
Some judges in Michigan routinely give jail time to first offenders. Often, unsuspecting clients who have lawyers unfamiliar with the judges’ practices learn this when they are sent to jail. There are many reasons to hire a successful, experienced DUI attorney. Having someone on your team who understands the specific consequences of your case and the tendencies of your judge is one of those reasons.
The stakes are high, even for someone charged with a first-time offense. The following are the maximum penalties possible for OWI and other alcohol-related driving offenses in Michigan:
- OWI — A fine of $100 to $500, up to 93 days in jail, community service of up to 45 days, up to two years on probation, vehicle immobilization of up to 180 days, and license suspension of 30 days, followed by a restricted license for 150 days.
- UBAL/UBAC — A fine of up to $500, up to 93 days in jail, up to 45 days of community service work, probation for up to two years, and license suspension of 30 days, followed by a restricted license for 150 days.
- OWVI — A fine of up to $300, up to 93 days in jail, community service of up to 45 days, up to two years on probation, vehicle immobilization of up to 180 days, and license suspension of 30 days, followed by a restricted license for 150 days.
- Zero tolerance — Afine of up to $250, no jail time, community service of up to 45 days, up to two years on probation, no vehicle immobilization.
- High BAC — A fine of $200 to $700, up to 180 days in jail, up to 45 days of community service, up to two years of probation, vehicle immobilization of up to 180 days, mandatory rehabilitation program for at least one year, license suspension of 45 days, followed by a restricted license for the remainder of a year.
- CDL license holders — In addition to other potential penalties, a driver with a CDL faces a license suspension for a year or suspension for three years if transporting hazardous materials at the time of the charge.
Only the best DUI lawyers seriously question the evidence with the intent to win your case. Most immediately assume you will be pleading guilty. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by making sure your case is analyzed by a top DUI attorney and that you are properly represented in every phase of the case. Hiring a Michigan DUI / DWI defense lawyer like Paul Tafelski can help ensure that every legal defense has been explored before you accept any plea agreement.