Drunk driving is the most common crime committed in the United States. In fact, close to 4,000 Americans a day are arrested on an OWI, (operating a vehicle while intoxicated) or drunk driving related charge. In Michigan specifically, someone is charged with an OWI about every ten minutes.
Since these offenses are so prevalent, the laws on them tend to vary considerably from state to state. This page is dedicated to those DWI laws in Michigan and facts related to them.
If you have been arrested on an OWI or OWVI (operating a vehicle while visibly impaired), have no fear. One out of every ten charges is wrongful. This means that a high percentage of cases can be overturned. However, to take advantage of this fact it is important that a legal specialist has the opportunity to cast an assiduous eye on the ins and outs of your case.
The current legal limit of alcohol in your system while driving in Michigan is .08% blood alcohol content (BAC). Anyone caught driving with a higher level than this can be prosecuted for an OWI or OWVI. The standard until 2003 was .10%. However, as a result of a mandate set by the Clinton presidency Michigan had to pass this lower limit law to receive funds for road maintenance.
If you are caught with an illegal BAC, and it is your first time, this is what can happen to you. Your license will be suspended for 30 days, and restricted for 150 days. The restriction means you can only drive to work, school, alcohol treatment programs, and other such necessities and you must have documented proof with you at all times of where you are going. The fine to reinstitute your license is usually about $125, and you can spend as long as 93 days in a jail cell. Other monetary penalties include, between $100 and $500 dollars to the state, and $1,000 dollars a year to the Secretary of State for what is called a "driver responsibility fee."
A charge of OWVI is basically the same except the fine only goes up to $300, and the driver responsibility fee costs $500 a year, rather than a thousand. It is common that first offenders are offered this slightly less harsh sentence, and accept it. This may not be your best option however because either way your record will have the equivalent of a drunk driving charge on it, whether OWI or OWVI. This can make getting a job difficult. An experienced OWI attorney can appropriately advise you concerning this choice.
A second OWI or OWVI is punishable by a $200-$1000 fine, 5 to 365 days in a prison, and community service from 30-90 days (if the second offense occurs within 7 years of the first). Also, upon a second conviction, the court orders a mandatory temporary seizure of the vehicle operated during intoxication. Also, one’s license is revoked for at least a year, and then one can appeal to the state for a restricted license.
A third drunk driving charge in Michigan carries with it some heavy penalties. A charge is considered to be the third if it occurs within ten years of two other related charges. The third offense is considered a felony. What is a felony? It is considered to be an offense graver than a misdemeanor and carries with it more than 1 year in prison at least. In the case of an OWI felony in Michigan, the fine ranges from $500 to $5,000, the jail time is either between 1 and 5 years in a state prison, or between 30 and 365 days in a county jail along with 60 to 100 days of probation and 48 hours of community service. Also, your car will be immobilized upon conviction so that no one can use it, neither you, nor your friends and family.
Making sense of the various acronyms inherent in the Michigan legal system can be confusing, so let’s make this simple. There are more and more terms for drunk driving out there quite often, DUI, DWI, OWI, UBAC, etc. As far as those legally relevant to Michigan one only has to be versed in the two explained above, an OWI and an OWVI.
In the end, these two charges tend to carry similar penalties in Michigan though overall the latter one is a bit easier on fines. Other terms have been stricken by legal amendments. OWVI is the newer charge of the two and was created to distinguish between the old version of an OWI, which meant "operating a vehicle while impaired," from the new OWI which means "operating a vehicle while intoxicated." Ignore all terms other than these two, because unless controlled substances were involved in addition to alcohol, they are the only charges you’ll see on your court summons.
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