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Drinking and Driving Charges in Michigan - What am I facing?

Drinking/Drugging and driving in Michigan is one of the most common criminal matters in our courts, but with so many different charges it is easy for someone to be confused with what charge they face. In Michigan, there are a variety of different charges that you could find yourself facing if you drink alcohol or consume an intoxicating drug and get behind the wheel. These charges are centered on two basic principles: impaired driving and driving while intoxicated.


When facing an intoxicated or impaired driving charge, you may have several questions ranging from “what is required under the law to convict me of this charge” to “what is the maximum punishment I could face if I am convicted.” In an effort to answer some of these questions and perhaps ease some anxiety, my office prepared this blog detailing some important information about impaired and intoxicated driving charges in Michigan. Intoxicated or impaired driving offenses are numerous and hard to navigate alone. Having an experienced attorney to navigate the legal system and find the best outcome for you or your loved one is imperative. If you or your loved one have any questions about an drinking/drugging and driving charge, please do not hesitate to contact Spencer. He is here to help.


What are the types of charges?


  • Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) - Your ability to operate a motor vehicle was visibly impaired because of alcohol, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance.

  • Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) - has three different violation subtypes:

  1. Alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances in your body has substantially affected your ability to operate a motor vehicle.

  2. Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is 0.08 or more. The level is determined through a chemical test. In Michigan under the Implied Consent Law, all drivers are considered to have given their consent to the chemical test to determine BAC or the presence of drugs. Refusal of this test has consequences for your driver’s license. If you do refuse and don’t request a hearing to contest the refusal, six (6) points will be added to your driving record; your license will be suspended for one (1) year, after first offense; your license will be suspended for two (2) years if you refuse to take the test one or more times within 7 years.

  3. High BAC - your alcohol level was 0.17 or more. This is also determined by a chemical test.

  • Operation With Any Presence of a Schedule 1 Drug or Cocaine (OWPD) - You have small trace amounts of these drugs in your body, even if you don’t appear intoxicated or impaired. This can be determined by a chemical test and also subject to the Implied Consent Laws.


What are the sanctions for each charge?


Operating While Visibly Intoxicated:

  • First Offense: Up to a $300 fine, and one or more of the following:

  1. Up to 93 days in jail.

  2. Up to 360 hours of community service.

  3. Driver's license restrictions for 90 days (180 days if impaired by a controlled substance).

  4. Possible vehicle immobilization.

  5. 4 points added to the offender's driving record.

  • Second Offense Within 7 Years (any combination): $200 to $1,000 fine, and one or more of the following:

  1. 5 days to 1 year in jail; and/or 30 to 90 days of community service.

  2. Driver's license revocation and denial for a minimum of 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years).

  3. License plate confiscation.

  4. Vehicle immobilization for 90 to 180 days unless the vehicle is forfeited.

  5. Possible vehicle forfeiture.

  6. 4 points added to the offender's driving record.

  • Third Offense Within Lifetime (any combination): Felony Conviction, $500 to $5,000 fine, and either of the following:

  1. 1 to 5 years imprisonment, with 30-days being required by law.

  2. 3 years of probation.

  3. 60 to 180 days community service.

  4. Driver's license revocation and denial if there are 2 convictions within 7 years or 3 convictions within 10 years. The minimum period of revocation and denial is 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years).

  5. License plate confiscation.

  6. Vehicle immobilization for 1 to 3 years, unless the vehicle is forfeited.

  7. Possible vehicle forfeiture.

  8. Vehicle registration denial.

  9. 4 points added to the offender's driving record.

Operating While Intoxicated AND Operating With Any Presence of a Schedule 1 Drug or Cocaine:

  • First Offense: $100 to $500 fine and one or more of the following:

  1. Up to 93 days in jail.

  2. Up to 360 hours of community service.

  3. Driver's license suspension for 30 days, followed by license restrictions for 150 days.

  4. Possible vehicle immobilization.

  5. Possible ignition interlock.

  6. 6 points added to driving record.

  • Second Offense within 7 Years (any combination): $200 to $1000 fine, and one or more of the following:

  1. 5 days to 1 year in jail.

  2. 30 to 90 days of community service.

  3. Driver's license revocation and denial for a minimum of 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years).

  4. License plate confiscation.

  5. Vehicle immobilization for 90 to 180 days, unless the vehicle is forfeited.

  6. Possible vehicle forfeiture.

  7. 6 points added to the offender's driving record.

  • Third Offense Within Lifetime (any combination): Felony Conviction, $500 to $5,000 fine, and either of the following:

  1. 1 to 5 years imprisonment.

  2. Probation, with 30 days to 1 year in jail.

  3. 60 to 180 days community service.

  4. Driver's license revocation and denial if there are 2 convictions within 7 years or 3 convictions within 10 years. The minimum period of revocation and denial is 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years).

  5. License plate confiscation.

  6. Vehicle immobilization for 1 to 3 years, unless the vehicle is forfeited.

  7. Possible vehicle forfeiture.

  8. Vehicle registration denial.

  9. 6 points added to the offender's driving record.

  • High BAC (harsher consequences): One or more of the following:

  1. Up to 180 days in jail.

  2. $200 to $700 fine.

  3. Up to 360 hours of community service.

  4. Driver's license suspension for 1 year. Eligible for restrictions after 45 days of suspension if an ignition interlock device is installed on all vehicles the offender owns or intends to operate.

  5. Possible metal license plate confiscation if the offender operates a vehicle without a properly installed ignition interlock device.

  6. Mandatory vehicle immobilization if the offense is subsequently convicted for operating a vehicle without a properly installed ignition interlock device.

  7. 6 points added to the offender's driving record.

  • Causing Death or Serious Injury While Committing One of These Offenses: Felony Conviction and the following:

  1. Death -- Up to 15 years imprisonment, or a fine of $2,500 to $10,000, or both.

  2. Injury -- Up to 5 years imprisonment, or a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, or both.

  3. Emergency Responder Death -- Up to 20 years imprisonment, or a fine of $2,500 to $10,000, or both.

  4. Driver's license revocation and denial for a minimum of 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years).

  5. License plate confiscation.

  6. Vehicle immobilization for up to 180 days, unless the vehicle is forfeited.

  7. Possible vehicle forfeiture.

  8. 6 points added to the offender's driving record.