Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in Michigan

What is considered drugged driving in Michigan and the penalties for a conviction.

Like many states, Michigan has legalized the recreational use of marijuana. However, driving while under the influence of or visibly impaired by drugs (including marijuana) is still illegal. This article will explain in detail the different criminal charges and penalties that can result from driving after consuming different drugs.

Types of Impairment

Michigan's impaired driving laws are separated into two main types: operating while under the influence (OWI) and operating while visibly impaired (OWVI).

OWI. A driver is considered to be OWI when the consumed substance has substantially deprived the driver of normal control or clarity of mind. You can also be convicted of OWI for driving with any amount of a schedule I controlled substance in your blood. This category includes amphetamines, cocaine, and prescription pain killers. However, legally obtained marijuana is not considered a schedule I controlled substance. The fact that the driver had a valid prescription can be a defense in a per se OWI charge (based on having a controlled substance in your system), but the driver can still be convicted if the prosecutor can prove that the driver was substantially deprived of normal control or clarity of mind.

OWVI. "While visibly impaired" is a lower standard than "under the influence." Instead of substantial deprivation of control, the prosecutor must show that the driver showed observable signs of impairment due to drugs or alcohol. Impaired driving is often charged as OWVI when there is no chemical test proving impairment.

Proving impairment. Unless the offense includes a schedule I controlled substance, a conviction requires proving some level of impairment. The prosecutor will often use blood test results interpreted by an expert witness along with the testimony of the arresting officers regarding signs of impairment or drug use that were observed to prove impairment.

Criminal Penalties

The penalties for an OWI and OWVI are almost identical and generally depend on the number of prior convictions within the last seven years.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense


Up to 93 days jail

5 days to one year

One to five years (30 days to one year if community service ordered)


$100 to $500 for OWI and $100 to $300 for OWVI

$200 to $1,000

$500 to $5,000

Community Service

Up to 360 hours

30 to 90 days

60 to 180 days

Vehicle penalties. For OWI convictions, the court can order the offender's vehicle be equipped with an ignition interlock device (IID). In either case, the court can also order the offender's vehicle be immobilized or even forfeited for repeated offenses.

Driver's License Consequences

An impaired driving incident can result in many different driver's license penalties.

Implied consent and unlawful refusals. Drivers who are lawfully arrested for impaired driving are required by law to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test. An unlawful refusal will result in a license suspension of one year for a first offense and two years for a second offense.

OWVI. A first OWVI conviction carries a 180-day license suspension, but a restricted license is immediately available. This license permits limited travel and the use of an IID.

OWI. A first OWI conviction carries a 180-day license suspension with a restricted license available only after serving 30 days of the suspension.

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