DUI Consequences & Michigan OWI Law
When you get pulled over for driving under the influence in Michigan, that’s not something to take lightly. A Michigan OWI or DUI conviction can have serious ramifications that affect the rest of your life.
However, as serious as a Michigan OWI is, it doesn’t have to ruin your life. Depending on your circumstances and with the help of an experienced Detroit DUI lawyer, you may have a chance at getting your charge dismissed or your penalties reduced.
Call (313) 818-3238 today or fill out the form below and we will help you. Your initial consultation will always be free and confidential.
Consequences of an OWI/DUI Conviction
You might go to jail.
Even a first offense for OWI or OWVI in Michigan can result in jail time. In addition to the stress and anxiety of being incarcerated, that’s time lost from work, from your family, or from your education. You could lose your job if you go to jail, or if you’re a college student you might fall so behind on your classes that you can’t complete the semester, and it may take you longer to finish your degree. Your best option for avoiding jail time is to hire an experienced Detroit OWI defense attorney who will work aggressively on your behalf to get your case dismissed or your penalties reduced.
You might have to pay expensive fines.
Fines for a DUI conviction can be thousands of dollars — and you can experience negative impacts, including ongoing suspension of your driver’s license if you don’t pay them. Also, fines from a DUI can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, so there’s no getting rid of them. You might be able to get on a payment plan, but even that might be a hardship if your fines are significant. A skilled Detroit DUI defense lawyer can help you fight the drunk driving charge and potentially avoid fines you can’t afford.
You might lose your driver’s license.
If you’re convicted of an OWI or OWVI offense, you should expect that your driver’s license will be suspended. Under some circumstances, it may even be revoked. To get your driver’s license back, you’ll have to pay fines and fees and meet a list of conditions imposed by the court or the Secretary of State’s office. While you’re waiting out your suspension and working to meet the conditions to get your license back, you won’t be allowed to drive — not to go to your job, or to pick up your kids from school or activities, or to go to the grocery store or doctor’s appointments or other normal, everyday activities. However, a good Michigan OWI defense lawyer may be able to help you avoid a suspension or get your license back.
You might lose your job or have trouble finding work.
If you do any kind of driving for your job — even using your own car — chances are that your employer periodically checks your driving record, or has some kind of policy in place for what happens when you get into an accident or get a ticket for a traffic violation. An OWI is a criminal offense, and a conviction may prompt your boss to decide that you’re too great a risk to continue to employ.
A Michigan OWI conviction also means that you’ll have a criminal record that shows up in background checks when you apply for a job, and a potential employer may be reluctant to hire you with an OWI in your history.
You might pay more for car insurance.
Insurance companies calculate your car insurance premiums based on a number of factors, but it all boils down to how much risk they’re taking to insure you and your vehicle. A DUI conviction on your record is very likely to cause your insurance company to consider you a greater risk — and to raise your rates accordingly. A DUI conviction could end up costing you thousands of dollars in increased car insurance premiums in the long term.
Your car might be immobilized or impounded.
Depending on the circumstances of your Michigan OWI conviction, a court may order that your car be immobilized or impounded, or you may have to have an ignition interlock device installed on any car that you drive.
You might have to perform community service.
A court may order you to perform unpaid community service as part of your OWI sentence, and that may cut into the time available to you to perform paid work, or to spend with your family or on your education.
You may be required to go through alcohol or substance abuse treatment.
A court may order you to complete an alcohol or drug education program, or substance abuse treatment, as a condition of probation or your OWI sentence. Failure to complete the program or treatment could mean you have to spend time in jail, or face other consequences.
You could get sued if you got into an accident while driving under the influence.
If your OWI or OWVI charge resulted from a car crash, a conviction could be used as evidence of your negligence if other people involved in the accident decide to sue you for compensation of their injuries or damages.
Your immigration status could be affected.
If you’re not a United States citizen, a DUI conviction — especially if you have multiple convictions, or your conviction is for a felony — could result in denial of your application for an immigration visa, green card, or American citizenship.
You could lose or be denied a professional license.
If you hold a license to practice a profession, such as law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, teaching, or another licensed profession, a Michigan OWI conviction may result in your license being suspended or revoked, depending on the circumstances of your conviction and the policies of the board overseeing your license. You may be denied a license to practice your profession if you don’t already have one.
Michigan DUI/OWI Penalties
The penalties for an OWI conviction vary based on a number of factors, including your BAC and whether you have previous convictions. Penalties become more severe as you accrue new convictions, and when your BAC is exceptionally high.
Penalties also can be affected by what a judge thinks is “reasonable” based on the facts, evidence, and circumstances of a case. The Michigan Supreme Court recently decided a case that said judges, and not the Legislature, have the power to decide criminal sentences. That means that judges aren’t restricted by the sentences written into statutes by the Legislature.
The penalties for OWI found in Section 257.625 of the Michigan Vehicle Code include:
The first time you get an OWI conviction in Michigan for being impaired or for having a BAC over .08, it’s a misdemeanor offense. You may be sentenced to:
- Up to 93 days in jail
- A fine of up to $500
- Community service for up to 360 hours
- Suspension of your driver’s license for 30 days, and then restriction of your license for 150 days
- Six points added to your driver’s license
Your second OWI conviction for being impaired or having a BAC over .08 is a more serious misdemeanor. The possible penalties for conviction include:
- Up to 1 year in jail, with a mandatory minimum of 5 days
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Community service for 30 to 90 days
- A minimum 1 year driver’s license revocation, or a minimum of 5 years if your license has been revoked within the preceding 7 years
- License plate confiscation
- Your vehicle may be immobilized or forfeited
- Six points on your driver’s license
Third or Subsequent DUI
It’s a felony in Michigan when you get a third or subsequent OWI conviction within your lifetime, or have two or more convictions for certain other types of offenses. The penalties for a felony third or subsequent OWI conviction 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 for up to 180 days
- Revocation of your driver’s license
- Denial of your vehicle registration and confiscation of your license plate
- Six points on your driver’s license
High BAC or “Super Drunk” DUI
Michigan treats OWI more seriously when you are charged for having a BAC of .17 or higher. You may be charged with “Unlawful Blood Alcohol Level,” also commonly known as “super drunk OWI.” If you’re convicted, the offense is a misdemeanor, and the possible penalties for a first conviction may include:
- Up to 180 days in jail
- A fine of up to $700
- Community service for up to 360 hours
- Driver’s license suspension for up to 1 year, with a restricted license possible after 45 days if you get an ignition interlock device installed on any car you own or drive
- Six points on your driving record
If you are pulled over and charged for driving without an ignition interlock device, your license plate may be confiscated and Michigan law requires that your vehicle be immobilized.
Defending Your Michigan DUI Charge
To convict you of OWI, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:
- Operated a motor vehicle
- Under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Your ability to drive was impaired because of the consumption of alcohol or drugs
Often, the prosecutor’s case is built on observations by police or other witnesses to suggest that your driving was impaired, and on the results of breath or blood tests to determine whether your BAC was over the legal limit. A skilled Michigan OWI defense lawyer will look at the evidence used by the prosecutor with an eye for detail and a thorough knowledge of law and procedure in OWI cases.
Maybe the police officer’s observations were faulty, or the test that determined your BAC was improperly administered. With the help of a good lawyer, you may have options for fighting your OWI charge and getting it dismissed, or your penalties reduced.
Common defense strategies in OWI cases include:
- Challenging the results of your breath or blood test
- Challenging how breath or blood tests were administered
- Challenging the legitimacy of a search warrant, or the lack of a search warrant
- Challenging the legitimacy of the stop
- Challenging whether police had probable cause to arrest you.
Why Hire a DUI Lawyer
An experienced OWI or DUI lawyer can help you through every step of the legal process, from the time you’re arrested until your case goes to trial. A lawyer who knows the courts in Detroit and the surrounding areas can advise you about what to expect in your case, and craft a strong defense strategy based on experience with local police departments, local prosecutors, and local courts and how they handle OWI charges.
In the long run, having the help of an OWI lawyer may save you money — and possibly save you from jail.