DUI versus OWI versus DWI: Which is the most serious?

Technically, a person is never charged with a Michigan DUI, where DUI stands for "driving under the influence."  The correct acronym is OWI, which stands for "operating while intoxicated."  Every state has its own unique manner of classifying a drunk driving offense. As a result, several acronyms have become popular in various states and regions of the country. The term OUIL, which stands for operating under the influence of intoxicating liquors, was practically unique to Michigan until the September 30, 2004, amendments altered the terminology to Operating While Impaired (OWI). Previously, the acronym owi meant operating while impaired under Michigan law, which is now referred to as OWVI. 

DUI vs. DWI vs. OWIDUI (driving under the influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) are not considered proper descriptions of the crime of operating while intoxicated under Michigan law, but these terms are quite common throughout other states. The proper term is OWI, even if another phrase or acronym appears on the ticket or court notice. Because of the widespread use of the acronyms in other states, people in Michigan often times refer to a drunk driving charge as DWI or DUI.

OUIN is an acronym representing operating under the influence of narcotics. This terms is not widely used in Michigan since the September 30, 2004, amendments, but it was a parallel to OUIL under the old law. The new term is simply OWI, as the drunk driving statute prohibits driving while intoxicated while under the influence of either alcohol or a controlled substance. Often times, a police officer will describe the charge on a traffic ticket as OWI -- Controlled Substance.  You may also encounter OWPD, which stands for "operating with the presence of drugs."  OWPD is, again, properly classified as an OWI charge, but term OWPD became popular with police officers.

The Michigan legal system has developed its own alphabet soup of criminal charges and acronyms in addition to the above terminology. This includes DWLS (driving while license suspended), DV (domestic violence), A&B (assault and battery), MDOP (malicious destruction of property), PWID (possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver), and a colorful array of other terms such as HYTA, CSC, UDAA, and SORA.  There is even occasional confusion created amongst lawyers regarding these terms, such as FA (felonious assault), a term used in Wayne County, versus ADW (assault deadly weapon), which is popular in Macomb county, both describing the same offense. 

A Michigan DUI, properly described as either OWI (operating while intoxicated) or OWVI (operating while visibly impaired), is a misdemeanor criminal defense and carries up to 93 days in jail.  Both OWI and OWVI are drunk driving charges, and a prior conviction for either OWI or OWVI within 7 years enhances the charge to an OWI 2nd offense.  An OWI 2nd is also a misdemeanor, but it carries up to a year in jail and results in a lifetime revocation of the driver's license.  A third offense or subsequent offense, any time in a lifetime, is a felony drunk driving charge, which carries up to 5 years.