First Time Michigan DUI Penalties: OWI - Operating While Intoxicated

A Michigan OWI is the same as a DUI or a DWI in other states

A Michigan OWI stands for "operating while intoxicated." This is your normal drunk driving charge under Michigan law. It could include only alcohol (either above the .08 limit or "under the influence of alcohol"), a controlled substance, an intoxicating substance (a nonprescription medication taken in excess or huffing), or a combination of any of the above. Michigan also has a strict "any amount" law that prohibits driving with any measurable amount of a schedule 1 substance (PCP, LSD, heroin) or cocaine, which is a schedule 2 substance specifically included in the any amount law. This can also include active THC from marijuana for any non-medical marijuana user, since marijuana remains a schedule 1 drug in Michigan. 

Whether the charge is alcohol or drugs, or a combination, the charge is the same: OWI. All of these charges are generally "drunk driving" charges under Michigan law. 

Summary of Penalties for a Michigan OWI

  • Recorded as "misdemeanor" conviction as opposed to felony conviction on criminal record
  • Jail up to 93 days
  • Probation for up to 2 years with alcohol and drug monitoring
  • Fines up to $500, "plus court costs" which totals over $1,000.00
  • 30 days hard suspension on Michigan driver's license, eligible to drive for the balance of the six months (150 days) on a restricted basis, i.e. to / from / and in connection with work, court ordered programs, and emergency medical treatment
  • Up to 360 hours community service
  • Six points on your Michigan driver's license
  • $1,000.00 per year for two years "Driver Responsibility Fee" charged by the Secretary of State through the Michigan Department of Treasury

A second offense for OWI or OWVI within seven years of a prior OWI or OWVI results in tougher penalties, greater likelihood of jail, and a lifetime revocation of a person's driver's license. A third offense for any combination of OWI and OWVI charges in a lifetime is a felony OWI 3rd offense, which carries mandatory jail and a possible prison term of up to 5 years.

Important: If you have a prior conviction for OWI or impaired driving ("OWVI") within the last 7 years, getting your current OWI charge reduced to impaired ("OWVI") does not save your license. For revocation purposes, the State of Michigan enhances penalties for all prior drunk driving convictions. A prior OWVI counts as a prior conviction. 

Can a Michigan OWI Get Reduced?

Yes. Getting a reduction from OWI to OWVI is not usually very difficult. The advantage to this on a first offense is that the driver saves his or her driver's license. Getting an OWI reduced to OWVI is not a major victory. 

First time OWI offenders risk losing their license for 30 days, with an additional 150 days restricted driving privileges. If a plea to impaired driving is agreed upon with the prosecutor, the driver's license is not suspended at all, but it is restricted for 90 days. This is the carrot and stick used by the State of Michigan to convince first time offenders to plead guilty to impaired.

In a few jurisdictions, however, if a person is involved in a property damage accident, the prosecutor maintains policies that do not permit reduction from OWI to OWVI. 

If you have a prior conviction for OWI, OWVI, or even a Minor BAC, a second offense within 7 years qualifies as an OWI 2nd, and a third offense for any combination of drunk driving offenses in a lifetime qualifies as a felony. Likewise, if a person is charged with operating while intoxicated with a passenger under 16 years of age in the vehicle, the driver will be charged with a felony drunk driving offense if the motorist has a prior conviction for any drunk driving offense, including OWI or OWVI.


See also: Can I Get a Drunk Driving Charge Reduced to Reckless Driving in Michigan?