1st (First) Offense DUI - Overview

After more than 30 years practicing as Michigan DUI lawyers, we know that no one plans to go out and get arrested for drunk driving

Whatever else, it usually just happens. A 1st offense DUI is often (although not always) a person’s first criminal arrest, and is a humbling, if not humiliating experience. 

As scary as it may seem, however, a 1st offense OWI is not the end of the world, primarily because it is a first offense, and the courts understand that we all make mistakes in life. 

The goal of this section is to help the reader relax a bit, because it is highly unlikely that you are going to go to jail, will lose your job, or experience anything like that.

Also, if you hold a medical or other professional license, you are NOT really at risk to have it revoked, so don't sweat that, either. 

As bad as the whole DUI situation may seem, the simple (and pleasant) truth is that you will probably not have to go through many of the things that seem to threaten you right now.

In the real world, most first time DUI offenders are law-abiding, tax-paying and productive members of society, and a drunk driving charge usually represents an isolated and unfortunate instance of poor judgment. .

Although Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) is a criminal charge, most people who find themselves in this situation are not criminals, in any sense of the word. 

That's easy to say, but making sure that you don’t wind up feeling (or being treated) like one is a key part of what my team and I do, as Michigan DUI lawyers.  

Even more important is that we know how to and will protect you from being seen by the court system as having a drinking problem, especially if you don’t have one (and most 1st time DUI offenders do NOT).

Unfortunately, the court system has an inherent "alcohol bias" that directly impacts how every person appearing for a DUI case is treated, right from the very beginning of his or her case.  The reader would do well to explore the Alcohol Bias section of my blog to learn more.

This means it’s critical for me and my team to make sure don’t get forced into some kind of counseling or rehab program to provide extensive help, and/or burdensome preventative counseling that’s unnecessary (and that you’ll have to make time AND pay for). 

You undoubtedly felt bad enough at time of your arrest. Now it’s time to move forward understanding that, if handled properly, your DUI will be nothing more than just a minor setback. 

While a DUI is never good news, my team and I can and will get you through this intact and otherwise protect you from all the potential negative consequences of that single bad decision.

In Michigan, there are 3 types of 1st offense DUI charges:

  1. Operating While Intoxicated (OWI),
  2. Operating While Intoxicate with a BAC of .17 or greater (High BAC), and
  3. Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI, or simply "impaired driving").

In this section, we’ll focus on OWI and impaired driving (OWVI) charges, and examine High BAC cases in a separate section.

In order to be considered a 1st offense charge, you cannot have had a conviction for ANY prior alcohol-related traffic offense within the 7 years preceding the date of your arrest for the current charge. 

This means that although you may have had a DUI many years ago, as long as the conviction date for it is more than 7 years before the date of your current arrest, then this new charge can only be made as a 1st offense.

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) carries the following potential maximum penalties:
    • Up to 93 days in jail
    • Up to 360 hours community service
    • Fine of up to $500, plus costs
    • Driver's license completely suspended for 30 days, followed by 150 days restricted
    • Possible vehicle immobilization
    • Possible ignition interlock
    • 6 points on driving record

Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI, and often simply called "impaired"), the least serious of all Michigan DUI charges, carries these maximum possible penalties:

    • Up to 93 days in jail
    • Fine of up to $300, plus costs
    • Up to 360 hours community service
    • Driver's license restricted for 90 days
    • Possible vehicle immobilization
    • 4 points on driving record
In the real world, the goal in any OWI or High BAC charge that cannot be dismissed or otherwise thrown out of court is to plea-bargain it down to impaired driving (OWVI) because the penalties are much less severe.

The reality is that, almost without exception, jail is NOT on the menu in any of the courts in the Greater-Detroit area of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston, St. Clair or Washtenaw Counties.

This means that it’s a waste of time to look for a lawyer who spends too much time addressing an outcome that’s not going to happen in the first place.  

Instead, you hire a Michigan DUI lawyer (like me or my team) to avoid the real consequences that can and will happen in your case, like having restrictions placed on your ability to drive. 

In addition, a very real risk in a 1st offense DUI case is getting stuck on long, difficult probation with all kinds of breath and urine testing, classes, counseling, community service, support groups and such.

We need to avoid as much of all that as possible. 

Even though you didn't plan on getting a DUI, my team and I will plan and execute an intelligent strategy to minimize the potential consequences of your charge. 

There may not be any jail in your future, but there still is important work to do.
Client Reviews
Five stars hands down!! Jeff and his legal team represented me in a seemingly impossible situation. I had many obstacles to overcome, in the end I walked out with with my driving privileges reinstated. Jeff and his team were very helpful Peter
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