Common Drunk Driving Charges and Penalties in Michigan

A key function of our jobs, as Michigan DUI attorneys, is explaining the various kinds of drinking and driving charges the differences between them, and all of the potential penalties that can be imposed as a result. 

Below is a list of the most common drunk driving charges that are handled in the local district and circuit courts of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston, St. Clair and Washtenaw Counties, and the possible penalties provided for each under Michigan's Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) law.

Other sections of this site examine whether and/or how they are typically imposed:

1. First Offense OWI, UBAL, OWVI or OUID:

For OWI, UBAL, or OUID

  1. Up to 93 days in jail
  2. 6 months Suspended License: 1st 30 days no driving at all, remaining 5 months Restricted Driving allowed.
  3. Up to $500 in fines, plus costs
  4. Up to 360 hours of Community Service
  5. 6 Points on your Driving Record

For OWI with BAC of .17 or more (High BAC)

  1. Up to 180 days in jail (increased from 93 days)
  2. Fine of $200 but not more than $700 (increased from $100 but not more than $500)
  3. One year license suspension with restrictions permitted after 45 days (increased from six-month license suspension with restrictions permitted after 30 days)
  4. Up to 360 hours community service (same)
  5. Cost of prosecution (same)
  6. Immobilization not exceeding 180 days allowed (same)
  7. 6 points on the driving record (same)
  8. Mandatory alcohol treatment program or self-help program for a period of not less than one year.
  9. Motorists who wish to drive after the 45-day license suspension may do so only after a breath alcohol ignition interlock device is installed on their vehicle for the remained of the 1 year suspended/restricted period.

For OWVI (Impaired Driving)

  1. Up to 93 days in jail
  2. 90 days Restricted Driving (180 days if Impaired by Drugs)
  3. Up to $300 in fines, plus costs
  4. Up to 360 hours of Community Service
  5. 4 Points on your Driving Record

2. Second Offense OWI, UBAL, or OUID:

  1. 5 days to 1 year in jail, or
  2. 30 to 90 days Community Service, and
  3. 1 year Revoked License (no driving at all, no license available)
  4. $200 to $1000 fine, plus costs
  5. License Plate Confiscation
  6. Vehicle Immobilization from 90 to 189 days, unless vehicle is forfeited
  7. Possible Vehicle Forfeiture
  8. 6 Points on your Driving Record

3. Third Offense OWI, UBAL, or OUID:

  1. 1 to 5 years in the State Prison, or
  2. 30 days to 1 year in the County Jail followed by Probation
  3. 5 years Revoked License (no driving at all, no license available)
  4. $500 to $5000 fine, plus costs
  5. 60 to 180 days Community Service
  6. License Plate Confiscation
  7. Vehicle Immobilization 1 to 3 years unless vehicle is forfeited
  8. Possible Vehicle Forfeiture
  9. Registration Denial
  10. 6 Points on your Driving Record
  11. $1000 Driver Responsibility for 2 years
In the real world, almost no one is EVER initially charged with least serious DUI offense of Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI - more commonly referred to as either “Impaired Driving,” or simply “Impaired”). 

Instead, the offense of OWVI is usually reserved for plea-bargains when a person is first charged with either OWI or High BAC, which is exactly the charge made in more than 99% of all first offense DUI cases. 

Assuming the evidence in such a case is otherwise solid, then our goal, as Michigan DUI lawyers, is to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor so that the client can avoid a conviction and penalties associated with the original charge.

While imposing consequences like jail, fines and costs are primarily within a Judge’s discretion, other penalties, like what happens to a person’s driver’s license, are mandatory under Michigan’s DUI laws, and are automatically imposed by the Michigan Secretary of State.

When it comes to driver’s license sanctions, a Judge cannot change or in any way alter the number of points assigned for a conviction, nor can he or she in any way modify what happens to a person’s driver’s license.

This is one of the key reasons why the OWVI (Impaired) is so important, because a conviction for Operating While Visibly Impaired does NOT result in any kind of driver’s license suspension, but merely requires, instead, the restriction of a person’s driving privileges for 90 days. 

That, in itself, is a big deal, and for many people, it’s actually HUGE.

The Michigan Secretary of State has a very good breakdown of the various alcohol and drug-related driving penalties which can be found here: SOS Substance Abuse and Driving.

Of course, a Judge can decide exactly what kind of probation a person will get, and this is really the heart and soul of the vast majority of DUI cases.

Assume, for example, that Bad Luck Brenda gets pulled over for swerving, tests out with a BAC of .14, and is charged with OWI. Assume further that the charge is later plea-bargained (negotiated) down to OWVI.

In one court, Brenda could wind up on long, difficult probation that requires all kinds of counseling and treatment along with frequent alcohol and drug testing (i.e., “probation from hell”) for 2 years.

By contrast, in another court, Brenda could wind up on probation for just 1 year and only be required to complete an alcohol education class and test infrequently. She could also be told by the Judge that if she competes the class before then, and otherwise has no problems while on probation, she could be considered for early release from probation after 9 months.

Both sentences are entirely within a Judge’s discretion.

However, what the Judge can’t do is change the fact that 4 points will go on Brenda’s driving record, and that her driving privileges will automatically be restricted for 90 days by the Secretary of State.

For even more information, explore the DUI section of my blog. It contains hundreds of highly detailed articles examining every facet of the DUI process, is updated with 2 new articles each week, and has a search box allowing the reader to find answers to any questions about potential and likely consequences in 1st offense, 2nd offense and 3rd offense DUI cases.

Fortunately, cases involving drunk driving causing serious injury or death, are, fortunately, not very common. 

There are, of course, other kinds of alcohol-related traffic offenses, but the above three charges are, by far, the most common.
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