Michigan Law on Drunk Driving 

Drunk Driving is called OWI, which stands for "Operating While Intoxicated".  Other common acronyms for this offense are DUI, DWI, OUIL, UBAL.  The crime of drunk driving is usually a misdemeanor, but depending on the number of prior drunk driving convictions you have, it can also be a felony.

A successful drunk driving defense does not necessarily mean a dismissal or a not guilty verdict. Often, the most successful defense is one in which the client, while disappointed with the outcome, knows that his or her attorney did everything to protect the client from the inequities that may occur in the judicial system.

A good defense in a drunk driving case begins well before the attorney even meets the client or before the client has been arrested. Becoming an effective and successful drunk driving attorney requires research, study, and preparation. Like any other successful legal specialist, a successful drunk driving defense attorney knows and studies the law. This effort does not start or end with the principal drunk driving statute, MCL 257.625. The successful advocate reads and knows the Motor Vehicle Code and the administrative rules pertaining to the DataMaster, blood tests, and urine samples. It is also important to read and follow the case-law that pertains not only to drunk driving but also to criminal law in general as well as the civil and administrative rulings that can show trends in the appellate courts. A successful practitioner will know the rules of evidence and study proper techniques of voir dire and cross-examination. Most important, the skilled drunk driving attorney conducts thorough investigations, files and argues proper motions, holds hearings, and when necessary, tries the case before either a judge or a jury. Finally, an effective defense counsel will be a creative thinker who is willing to share and discuss ideas with other attorneys in this common goal.

It is important to understand that while drunk driving is a crime and should be defended like a criminal case, it is also one of the only crimes where the police officer is often the only witness and in most cases there is no discernible victim.

Many attorneys feel that the Michigan courts and legislature have made the defense of drunk drivers an impossibility. This is not true. Some of the most powerful weapons in the defense attorney’s arsenal are the protections of State law and the Federal and Michigan Constitutions.

While some prosecutors and police officers stay current with changes in the laws, many do not. It is up to defense attorneys to make sure that if the police or prosecutor does not follow the law, and the defendant can take full advantage of this omission. This often helps to level the playing field.

Many perceive that a drunk driving conviction, particularly a first offense, will have very little impact on a person. Again, this is not true. A conviction takes a tremendous toll on the average person. Most first-offense drunk drivers have never been arrested before, and this will be their first and hopefully last experience with criminal law. There is a great deal of pressure, both emotional and financial, on a person convicted of drunk driving. It is imperative that attorneys not take these cases lightly and defend the rights of the accused to the fullest extent possible.

Let the Lex Firm's experienced legal team fight for you in the event you have been arrested for drunk driving.

Drunk Driving License Penalties:

    • First time offenders:

First time offenders face a 30 day suspension .  A OWI conviction for "operating while intoxicated" carries a 30 suspension and 150 days restricted driving thereafter, e.g. to and from work, school, probation, counseling, etc.  With a plea to impaired, the driver faces 90 days restricted driving with no suspension.

    • Second offense:

A second offense within seven years of a prior conviction carries a mandatory revocation of at least one year.  If the second offense falls outside seven years, it is treated as a first time offense for license sanctions.

    • Third offense:

If any three convictions fall within 10 years of two other convictions, the driver's license is revoked for a minimum of 5 years.

    • Chemical Test Refusal

The first chemical test refusal results in a one year suspension.  As opposed to a "revocation," a hearing is not required to obtain the license after the year has expired. A second chemical test refusal carries a two year suspension.

The following criminal penalties are authorized for drunk driving offenses and related offenses:

Murder, second-degree

Involuntary manslaughter

  • Up to 15 years in prison and/or up to a $7,500 fine. MCL 750.321.

Negligent homicide

  • Up to 2 years in prison and/or up to a $2,000 fine. MCL 750.324. Note that MCL 750.324 is repealed by 2008 PA 463, effective October 31, 2010, and replaced by MCL 257.601d, which provides for a 1-year misdemeanor when death results and/or up to a $2,000 fine.

Felonious driving/moving violation causing serious impairment of a body function

  • Up to 2 years in prison and/or up to a $2,000 fine. MCL 257.626c. Note that MCL 257.626c was repealed by 2008 PA 463, effective October 31, 2010, and replaced by MCL 257.601d(2), which is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500, or both.

OWI / OUIL / UBAL / OWVI / OWPCS resulting in death

  • Up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of $2,500–$10,000; permissive vehicle forfeiture; mandatory vehicle immobilization up to 180 days if no forfeiture. MCL 257.625(4)(a), .904d(1)(b). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).

Failure to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle resulting in death to a police officer, a firefighter, or other emergency response personnel

  • Up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of $2,500 to $10,000; permissive vehicle forfeiture; mandatory vehicle immobilization up to 180 days if no forfeiture. MCL 257.625(4)(b), .904d(1)(b). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).

OWI / OUIL / UBAL / OWVI / OWPCS resulting in serious bodily impairment

  • Up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of $1,000–$5,000; permissive vehicle forfeiture; mandatory vehicle immobilization up to 180 days if no forfeiture. MCL 257.625(5), .904d(1)(b). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).

OWI / OUIL / UBAL

  • First conviction:
    • Up to 93 days in jail, a fine of $100–$500, and/or community service up to 360 hours; permissive vehicle immobilization up to 180 days. MCL 257.625(9)(a), .904d(1)(a). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6). Effective October 31, 2010, for conviction for a super drunk driving offense (BAC of .17 or more), up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $200–$700. MCL 257.625(9)(a), as amended by 2008 PA 463.
  • Second violation within 7 years of preceding conviction:
    • Imprisonment for 5 days–1 year, with not less than 48 hours served consecutively, a fine of $200–$1,000, and/or community service for 30–90 days; permissive vehicle forfeiture; mandatory vehicle immobilization for 90–180 days if no forfeiture. MCL 257.625(9)(b), .904d(1)(c). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).
  • Third violation within 10 years of two prior convictions (note that 2006 PA 564 eliminates the 10-year requirement; see §5.26):
    • Imprisonment for 1–5 years or probation with jail imprisonment for 30 days–1 year, with not less than 48 hours served consecutively, and community service for 60–180 days; a mandatory fine of $500–$5,000; permissive vehicle forfeiture; mandatory vehicle immobilization for 1–3 years if no forfeiture. MCL 257.625(9)(c), (e), .904d(1)(d) (effective October 31, 2010, 2010 PA 155 removes the requirement that the prior two convictions must occur within the previous 10 years for mandatory immobilization to be imposed). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).

Knowingly permitting OWI, OUIL, UBAL, or OWVI

  • No death or serious bodily impairment resulting:
  • Death resulting:
  • Serious bodily impairment resulting:

OWVI

  • First conviction:
    • Up to 93 days in jail, a fine up to $300, and/or community service up to 360 hours; permissive vehicle immobilization up to 180 days. MCL 257.625(11)(a), .904d(1)(a). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).
  • Second violation within 7 years of preceding conviction:
    • Imprisonment for 5 days–1 year, with not less than 48 hours served consecutively, a fine of $200–$1,000, and/or community service for 30–90 days; permissive vehicle forfeiture; mandatory vehicle immobilization for 90–180 days if no forfeiture. MCL 257.625(9)(b), .904d(1)(c). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).
  • Third violation within 10 years of two prior convictions (note that 2006 PA 564 eliminates the 10-year requirement; see §5.26):
    • Imprisonment for 1–5 years, or probation with jail imprisonment for 30 days–1 year, with not less than 48 hours served consecutively, and community service for 60–180 days; a mandatory fine of $500–$5,000; permissive vehicle forfeiture; mandatory vehicle immobilization for 1–3 years if no forfeiture. MCL 257.625(9)(c), .904d(1)(d) (effective October 31, 2010, 2010 PA 155 removes the requirement that the prior two convictions must occur within the previous 10 years for mandatory immobilization to be imposed). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).

Zero Tolerance or Minor BAC

  • First conviction:
    • Community service for not more than 45 days and/or a fine up to $250. MCL 257.625(12)(a). Effective September 30, 2003, the amount of community service is stated as 360 hours (equivalent to 45 days at 8 hours per day).
  • Second violation within 7 years of preceding conviction:
    • Community service for not more than 60 days, a fine up to $500, and/or up to 93 days in jail. MCL 257.625(12)(b).

Child endangerment in conjunction with OWI, OUIL, UBAL, OWVI, OWPCS, or those offenses causing death or serious bodily impairment

  • First conviction:
    • Imprisonment for 5 days–1 year, with not less than 48 hours served consecutively, and/or community service for 30–90 days; a mandatory fine of $200–$1,000; permissive vehicle forfeiture; permissive vehicle immobilization up to 180 days. MCL 257.625(7)(a)(i), .904d(1)(a). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).
  • Second violation within 7 years of preceding conviction:
    • Imprisonment for 1–5 years, or probation with jail imprisonment for 30 days–1 year, with not less than 48 hours served consecutively, and community service for 60–180 days; a mandatory fine of $500–$5,000; permissive vehicle forfeiture; mandatory vehicle immobilization for 90–180 days if no forfeiture. MCL 257.625(7)(a)(ii), .904d(1)(c). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).
  • Third violation within 10 years of two prior convictions (note that 2006 PA 564 eliminates the 10-year requirement; see §5.26):
    • Same as above, but vehicle immobilization for 1–3 years. MCL 257.904d(1)(d). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).

Child endangerment in conjunction with zero tolerance

  • First conviction:
    • Up to 93 days in jail, a fine up to $500, and/or community service up to 60 days; permissive vehicle immobilization up to 180 days. MCL 257.625(7)(b)(i)–(ii), .904d(1)(a). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).
  • Second violation within 7 years of preceding conviction, or third within 10 years of two or more prior convictions:
    • Imprisonment for 5 days–1 year, with not less than 48 hours served consecutively, and/or community service for 30–90 days; a mandatory fine of $200–$1,000; permissive vehicle forfeiture; permissive vehicle immobilization up to 180 days. MCL 257.625(7)(b)(ii), .904d(1)(c). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).

Operating while license suspended or revoked

  • Death resulting:
    • Up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of $2,500–$10,000; permissive vehicle forfeiture; mandatory vehicle immobilization for not more than 180 days if no forfeiture. MCL 257.904(4), (6), .904d(2)(b). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).
  • Serious bodily impairment resulting:
    • Up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of $1,000–$5,000; permissive vehicle forfeiture; mandatory vehicle immobilization for not more than 180 days if no forfeiture. MCL 257.904(5), (6), .904d(2)(b). If a defendant is imprisoned for the violation for which immobilization is ordered, the period of immobilization begins at the end of the period of imprisonment. MCL 257.904d(6).

Tampering with immobilization device

All offenses in MCL 257.625

  • Costs of prosecution, at the court’s discretion; costs of immobilizing and storing a vehicle, at the court’s discretion; no compensation for community service; mandatory reimbursement of cost of supervision in community service. MCL 257.625(13), (14), .904e(1).

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