Michigan’s OWI and OWVI (DUI) Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd OWI/OWVI in Michigan.

Like all states, Michigan prohibits driving while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or controlled substances. Michigan has two classifications of impaired driving: operating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (OWI) and operating while visibly impaired (OWVI). However, some people still use the term "DUI" when referring to impaired driving charges.

This article outlines how these two violations (OWI and OWVI) differ and the penalties a convicted driver might face.

Michigan's OWI and OWVI Laws

To convict a driver of OWI, the prosecutor must prove the driver was:

  • operating a motor vehicle,
  • while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances.

Alternatively, to convict a driver of OWVI, the prosecutor must prove the driver was:

  • operating a motor vehicle,
  • while showing visible signs of impairment due to drug or alcohol consumption.

Generally, an OWVI is considered a less serious offense than an OWI.

What It Means to be "Operating" a Vehicle Under Michigan's OWI/OWVI Laws

Michigan has defined operation to include any person who is in actual physical control of a vehicle. While most impaired driving involves the actual movement of the vehicle, a driver who is in a stationary vehicle could theoretically be convicted under Michigan's expansive definition of operation.

When determining whether a driver is in actual physical control, the court will often consider:

  • where the keys are
  • if the engine is running
  • manipulation of the pedals
  • manipulation of the gearshift or other controls

So, for example, a driver who shifts a running car out of and back into park could possibly be convicted of an OWI offense.

Proof of Intoxication for an OWI Offense in Michigan

A driver is considered "under the influence" and can be convicted of an OWI if he or she:

  • is substantially deprived of normal control or clarity of mind due to ingesting drugs or alcohol
  • has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more (a "per se" OWI), or
  • tests positive for any illicit controlled substance (illegal drugs) such as amphetamines and cocaine (also a "per se OWI").

In other words, an OWI conviction can be based on actual impairment or a failed drug or alcohol test.

A driver who has a valid prescription for a controlled substance (such as prescription painkillers) generally can't be convicted of a per se OWI. However, the driver can still be guilty of an OWI if proven to be actually impaired (under the influence).

Proof of Intoxication for an OWVI Offense in Michigan

OWVI is a less serious offense than an OWI. To get an OWVI conviction, the prosecution just needs to prove the driver showed visible signs of impairment due to drugs or alcohol.

Penalties for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd OWI/OWVI/DUI in Michigan

Michigan OWI and OWVI penalties are generally the same except for a first-offense conviction and license suspension periods. In either case, the judge generally has discretion in deciding the severity of the penalties within the statutory limits.

The range of penalties is established by statute and generally depends on how many prior OWI and OWVI convictions the driver has in the last seven years. When calculating prior offenses for an OWI or OWVI offense, prior convictions include OWI, OWVI, and injury or fatality OWI incidents.

Jail, Fines, and Community Services for Michigan OWI and OWVI (DUI) Convictions

The chart below outlines the range of jail time and fines, and community service hours for a first, second, and third OWVI and OWI conviction in Michigan.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

Up to 93 days jail (up to 180 days if BAC was .17% or greater)

5 days to 1 year

1 to 5 years (30 days to 1 year if community service ordered)

Fines

$100 to $500 ($200 to $700 if BAC was .17% or greater) 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

Generally, first and second OWI/OWVI convictions are misdemeanors, while a third and subsequent offense will be a felony.

Substance Abuse Evaluations for Michigan OWI/OWVI Offenders

Prior to sentencing for an OWI or OWVI conviction, the driver must complete a drug and alcohol screening. The court will review the results in determining the appropriate treatment program for the driver. For repeat offenders, treatment is required and can include medication-assisted treatment.

Vehicle Immobilization and Forfeiture for Michigan OWI/OWVI Convictions

In addition to the other penalties, the court can (and sometimes must) impose penalties on the driver's vehicle.

For a first-offense OWI or OWVI, the court can immobilize the driver's vehicle for up to 180 days. For a second and third offense, the court must immobilize the vehicle for 90 to 180 days and one to three years, respectively. Alternatively, the court can order that the vehicle be seized and forfeited to the state.

Michigan's Enhanced DUI Penalties for Minor Passengers

An impaired driver who was transporting a passenger under 16 years of age will face more severe penalties than those listed above.

A first-offense OWI/OWVI that involved a minor passenger carries $200 to $1,000 in fines and either five days to one year in jail or 30 to 90 days of community service. An offender with a prior OWI/OWVI conviction who was transporting a minor passenger must pay $500 to $5,000 in fines and faces one to five years in jail.

Michigan OWI/OWVI Probation

Instead of imposing the full jail period, the judge will often place the offender in a "specialty court program." This program requires the offender to complete certain requirements like treatment, court supervision, and random testing. Failure to complete these tasks can result in the imposition of the original jail sentence.

Repeat offenders must serve a minimum period in jail before probationary release. A second-offense OWI/OWVI requires 48 hours in jail and a third offense requires 30 days (along with community service) prior to release on probation.

License-Related Penalties for Michigan OWI/OWVI/DUI Offenses

Getting caught driving while impaired will generally result in driver's license penalties. Generally, the license penalties depend on the number of prior offenses the driver has, the driver's level of impairment, and the driver's cooperation with the investigation.

License-related penalties can result from an OWI/OWVI arrest and/or conviction.

Michigan's Implied Consent Law

Under the state's implied consent law, drivers in Michigan are deemed to have given consent to a breath or blood test if arrested for impaired driving. An officer who has probable cause to believe a driver is visibly impaired or under the influence can request a breath or blood test. A driver can rescind consent and refuse testing, but a refusal will often result in penalties.

Refusing an OWI/OWVI Test in Michigan

When a driver refuses to take an alcohol or drug test as required by the implied consent law, the officer will seize the driver's license and notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the refusal. The DMV will review the driver's record and suspend the driver's license for:

  • one year for a first offense, and
  • two years if the driver has a prior OWI/OWVI or related refusal within the last seven years.

The fact that a driver refused testing can be used against them at trial and the officer can always apply for a search warrant to compulsorily obtain a blood sample.

License Suspensions and Revocation for OWI/OWVI Convictions in Michigan

All OWI and OWVI convictions are reported to the DMV. The DMV will review the driver's record and issue a notice of suspension.

OWVI suspensions. An OWVI will result in a 90-day suspension or 180-day suspension if a controlled substance was involved. Repeat violations will result in the same license revocation periods as an OWI.

OWI revocations. An OWI conviction will also result in license suspension, but the length of the suspension varies depending on the driver's BAC and other factors. Here are the suspension periods:

  • a first-offense OWI will result in a 180-day revocation (one year if .17% BAC or more)
  • a second-offense OWI will result in a one-year revocation, and
  • a third-offense OWI will result in a five-year revocation.

Drivers are eligible for reinstatement only after completing the revocation period as well as any court-ordered treatment programs.

Having a minor passenger (under 16 years old) will also increase the suspension periods.

Getting a Restricted License in Michigan After an OWI/OWVI Revocation or Suspension

Suspended and revoked drivers can generally apply to the DMV for a restricted ignition interlock device (IID) license. This license authorizes driving during the suspension period, but only in vehicles equipped with an IID.

A driver suspended for OWVI can immediately apply for a restricted license, but drivers suspended due to an OWI must complete a "hard suspension" prior to applying for the restricted license. The hard suspension period is 30 days for a first-offense OWI (45 days if .17% BAC or repeat offense).

Drivers suspended due to a test refusal or for driving under the influence of an illegal drug are not eligible for restricted driving privileges.

Michigan's Underage DUI Laws

In Michigan, drivers who are under 21 years of age are prohibited from driving with any amount of alcohol in their system. Exceptions exist for incidental bodily alcohol or alcohol consumed for religious purposes. However, these exceptions do not apply if the driver's BAC is .02% or more.

An underage drinking and driving violation is a misdemeanor and carries the following penalties:

  • First offense. 360 hours of community service, a 30-day license suspension, and up to $250 in fines.
  • Second offense. A 90-day license suspension and up to 93 days in jail, a maximum of $500 in fines, and up to 60 days of community service.

An underage OWI that involved a passenger under the age of 16 will also include additional jail, fines, and community service penalties. The driver's vehicle may also be seized and/or immobilized.

Talk to a Michigan DUI/OWI Attorney

While OWI and OWVI penalties are serious, there are sometimes options to reduce or eliminate certain penalties. If you've been arrested for driving under the influence in Michigan, it's important to get in contact with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

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