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Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI)

There is more than one way that you can be charged for DUI in Michigan. An alternative to the offense known as OWI, or operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, is OWVI, or operating a motor vehicle while visibly impaired. While OWI is based on evidence such as your BAC or a police officer observing you driving in a way that appears to indicate impairment, a charge of OWVI results from other people, such as other drivers on the road, witnessing you driving in a way that appears to show impairment. The basis of an OWVI charge is that you appeared impaired to an ordinary person.

You may be charged with OWVI when someone reports seeing you:

  • Swerving over the center line on the roadway
  • Driving on the shoulder
  • Driving too fast or too slow
  • Failing to stop for red lights or stop signs
  • Driving against traffic
  • Failing to stay in one lane or weaving in traffic

As with other offenses related to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an OWVI charge carries potentially serious penalties in Michigan. The consequences you may face if convicted include:

  • Serving time in jail or prison
  • Paying fines that can total thousands of dollars
  • Getting your driver’s license suspended or revoked
  • Having an ignition interlock installed on your vehicle
  • Getting your vehicle immobilized or impounded
  • Adding points to your driver’s license
  • Paying more for car insurance
  • Losing your job or having trouble finding a job because of the conviction on your record

If you’re facing a Michigan OWVI charge, even as a first offense, you should consult with an experienced OWVI lawyer who can discuss the circumstances and evidence in your case, and explain your options for a defense. You may have the ability to fight the charge and avoid jail time or other serious consequences.

Penalties for a Michigan OWVI Conviction

A Michigan OWVI charge can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Penalties increase with additional convictions, and can include up years in prison in some instances.

Penalties also depend on how an individual judge approaches your case. A recent Michigan Supreme Court decision said that judges should have the ability to determine “reasonable” penalties for a conviction, instead of having the state Legislature decide penalties by writing them into statutes. If you’ve been charged with OWVI, an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney can talk to you about possible outcomes.

Under Section 257.625 of the Michigan Vehicle Code, the statutory penalties for an OWVI conviction may include:

First Offense

The first time you’re convicted for OWVI in Michigan, it’s a misdemeanor offense. Your sentence and other penalties may include:

  • A jail sentence of up to 93 days
  • A fine of up to $300
  • Community service of up to 360 hours
  • Restriction of your driver’s license for up to 90 days
  • Four points on your driver’s license
  • Your car being immobilized

Second Offense

When you get a second conviction for OWVI, Michigan treats that as a more serious misdemeanor. The possible sentence and other penalties may include:

  • Up to 1 year in jail, with a minimum mandatory 5-day sentence
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Community service up to 90 days
  • Your driver’s license being revoked for at least 1 year, or 5 years if you had a prior revocation within the preceding 7 years
  • Your license plate being confiscated
  • Your vehicle being immobilized or forfeited
  • Four points on your driver’s license

Third or Subsequent Offense

If you are charged with OWVI and have at least two prior convictions for any type of OWI, or certain other offenses, your OWVI conviction can be a felony. The possible sentence and other penalties may include:

  • A prison sentence of 1 to 5 years
  • Probation plus a jail sentence of 30 days to 1 year
  • A fine of up to $5,000
  • Community service up to 180 days
  • Your driver’s license being revoked for at least 1 year if you have two prior convictions in the past 7 years or three convictions within 10 years; or for at least 5 years if your license has been revoked at least once in the past 7 years
  • Your vehicle being immobilized or forfeited
  • Your license plate being confiscated
  • Your vehicle registration being denied
  • Four points on your driver’s license

Defending Your Michigan OWVI Charge

When you’re facing an OWVI charge in Michigan, in order to convict you a prosecutor must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you operated a motor vehicle in a way that an ordinary person could interpret as your being impaired. OWVI charges inherently rely on witness testimony, but witness testimony often can be fallible. Witness testimony is subjective — and study after study shows that witnesses often can make mistakes or believe they’ve seen something that they didn’t actually see.

A skilled Michigan OWVI lawyer can examine the testimony that the prosecutor is using against you and spot the problems, flaws, and inconsistencies that might help you fight your charge. An experienced defense lawyer also knows the courts where your charge is pending, and how the process works. That knowledge can be used in your favor to try to get your charge dismissed or your penalties reduced.

Charged with an OWVI? Contact us today.

Your initial consultation will always be free and confidential. Call today or fill out the form below and we will help you.

Attorney Maurice Davis