In Michigan, operating a vehicle while under the influence (OWI) (sometimes called "DUI") is a criminal offense. The penalties for OWI convictions depend mostly on how many prior convictions the person has.
This article covers Michigan's OWI laws and the penalties you'll face for a first, second, and third OWI conviction.
Michigan has a number of laws prohibiting intoxicated driving. The two main categories are operating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (OWI) and operating while visibly impaired (OWVI) by drugs or alcohol. However, some people still use the term, "DUI."
An OWI—the more serious of the two offenses—involves operating a vehicle while:
In contrast, an OWVI conviction requires proof only that the driver shows visible signs of impairment due to ingesting alcohol or drugs. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 257.625.)
Generally, OWIs and OWVIs stay on your record and count as prior convictions for seven years in Michigan. A first offense in seven years is a misdemeanor and generally carries:
OWI and OWVI offenses involving passengers under 16 years of age carry enhanced penalties. The driver must pay a mandatory fine of $200 to $1,000 and serve either 30 to 90 days of community service or five days to one year in jail.
A second offense in seven years is a misdemeanor and generally carries:
These penalties are increased for OWI and OWVI offenses involving the transportation of a passenger less than 16 years of age. The enhanced penalties include a fine of $500 to $5,000 and one to five years in jail. If the judge grants probation, the convicted person must serve 30 days to 1 year in jail and complete 60 to 180 days of community service. Finally, the judge will order the driver's vehicle to be immobilized for 90 to 180 days or be completely forfeited.
A number of circumstances can elevate an impaired driving offense to a felony, including having at least two prior convictions, having minors in the vehicle, and causing injuries or deaths.
If you have two or more priors, the current offense can be charged as a felony. A conviction carries one to five years in prison (unless the judge grants probation), $500 to $5,000 in fines, and a five-year license revocation.
A DUI involving a minor passenger (under the age of 16) is a felony if the driver has at least one prior conviction within the past seven years or at least two prior convictions in his or her lifetime. A conviction carries one to five years in prison (unless the judge grants probation) and $500 to $5,000 in fines.
DUIs involving serious injuries ("serious impairment of a body function") are felonies and carry up to five years in prison and $1,000 to $5,000 in fines.
Causing the death of another person while driving under the influence is a felony and carries up to 15 years in prison and $2,500 to $10,000 in fines (the penalties are increased if the victim was a police officer or other emergency services personnel).
The penalties for either of these offenses are more severe if the defendant has prior convictions within the past seven years and a high BAC.
Drivers who are under the age of 21 can be cited for an underage DUI for operating a vehicle with a BAC of .02% or more, which doesn't take much.
An underage DUI is a misdemeanor. For a first offense, the driver is looking at up to $250 in fines, 360 hours of community service, and a 30-day license suspension. For second offenders, the fines are doubled, the license suspension is tripled, there are up to 60 days of community service, and there's possible jail time of up to 93 days.
Representing yourself in a DUI case is almost never a good idea. It never hurts to brush up on the law, but if you've been arrested for driving under the influence, you need a qualified attorney to help you navigate the legal system. Talk to an experienced DUI attorney who can review your case and advise you on how best to handle your situation.