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OWI Defense

The state of Michigan for years has struggled with the increase of drunk drivers on the road. In 2017, an report by Michigan’s Annual Drunk Driving Audit (DDA) program revealed that 16,561 people had failed a breathalyzer test. The majority of these failed tests yielded results at .17 to .99 BAC, which would result in an automatic felony charge. Statistics like these have caused Michigan legislators to implement strict operating while intoxicated (OWI) laws. It often takes an experienced OWI lawyer to provide reasonable defense for these charges.

In Michigan, prosecutions for Operating While Intoxication (“OWI”) under MCL 257.625 includes any combination of alcohol/substances based on the evidence presented including:

  • OWI with an unlawful bodily alcohol level;
  • OWI while under the influence of alcohol;
  • OWI while under the influence of a controlled substance;
  • OWI while under the influence of an intoxicating substance; or
  • OWI while under the influence of a combination of alcohol, a controlled substance, or intoxicating substances.

Although the penalties for OWI are serious, the consequences are more serious for a second OWI if a prior offense occurred within the past 7 years, or for a third OWI if two prior offenses occurred within the past 10 years. If the driver’s BAC is 0.17 or greater, then the person can be charged with an aggravated form of OWI. The rules are also different for drivers under the age of 21 or for drivers with a commercial driver’s license.

The impact a conviction for operating a vehicle while intoxicated is more extensive than you may think. If convicted, you may be sentenced to jail or prison, have your license suspended, and be required to pay steep court fines. Unfortunately these aren’t the only penalties you may face. The judge may impose additional conditions to your sentencing such as community service, points added to your driving record, and possible vehicle immobilization or installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). That doesn’t even include the possible career-related consequences an OWI conviction may bring. It’s not uncommon for offenders to lose their jobs or be denied a professional license because of their OWI conviction.

If you or someone you know has been charged with an OWI in the state of Michigan, we highly suggest you seek legal representation as soon as possible.

Oakland County OWI Defense Lawyer, MI | Drunk Driving Attorney

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated is one of the most common crimes committed by Michigan residents. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the penalties for OWI are light. The penalties for OWI are incredibly serious and could have a tremendous effect on your life, including your career or personal relationships. That is why if you’ve been arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, it’s crucial you seek experienced legal counsel with Dallo Law, P.C..

For aggressive and effective counsel, get in contact with criminal defense attorney J. Dallo of Dallo Law, P.C.. He has a thorough understanding of the training officers undergo in order to determine whether the driver is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and/or alcohol drug-combinations. Plus attorney Dallo has years of experience defending people accused of OWI and has a proven track record of success.Whether you are charged with Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), Operating With a High Bodily Alcohol Content (OWHBAC), or Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI), contact Dallo Law, P.C. for effective and aggressive legal representation.

Call us now at (248) 283-7000 to set up your first consultation. Dallo Law, P.C. accepts clients throughout the Oakland County and Macomb County area including Bloomfield Hills, Sterling Heights, Roseville, Pontiac, Troy, Royal Oak, Birmingham, Utica, Rochester, Novi and St. Claire Shores.

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Types of OWI Charges in Michigan

In Michigan, there’s various types of charges a person can face if they are driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or a controlled substance. All of these charges are serious and can result in serious penalties, however some are more severe than others. Understanding the definition of your OWI charge is the first step to crafting a strong defense for your case. Listed below are the different types of charges a person can face if they operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

  • Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated (OWI) – Most people who are stopped for drinking and driving will be charged with OWI. The crime is defined under the Michigan Penal Code Section 257.625, which states it’s illegal to operate a vehicle while intoxicated on a road, highway, or any place open to the general public. An officer can arrest you for OWI if:
    • They have probable cause that alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances are in your body and have substantially impaired your ability to drive safely; or
    • You submit and take an OWI chemical test and your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) was at or above .08.
  • Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) – In some cases, law enforcement will instead charge you with operating a vehicle while being visibly impaired (OWVI). This is when the officer has reason to believe you ingested alcohol, a controlled substance or other intoxicating substance, and that hindered your ability to see and impaired your driving overall. OWVI tends to have lighter penalties than an OWI conviction.
  • Operating with Any Presence of a Schedule 1 Drug or Drug or Cocaine (OWPD) – The state of Michigan determines the severity of a drug based on its Drug Schedule. If you’re found with even trace amounts of a schedule 1 controlled substance or cocaine in your system, then you’ll be charged with OWPD. Normally, an OWPD will result in a misdemeanor. However, the penalties could be enhanced if you have any prior OWI-related convictions on your record.
  • Zero Tolerance OWI – Minors under the age of 21 can also be charged with a type of OWI and have a stricter BAC
    limit. Any person under the legal drinking age with a BAC of .02 to .07 are in violation of zero tolerance laws. Penalties for violating zero tolerance laws normally include large fines, driver license restriction, as well as points added to your driving record.
  • Felony OWI (Super Drunk Laws) – In 2010, a new set of laws were passed in the state of Michigan that enhanced the penalties for high BAC OWI offenders. These can be found under MCL 257.625(6) and are regularly referred to as “Super Drunk Laws” or Operating with a High Bodily Alcohol Content (OWHBAC). The penalties for violating Super Drunk laws are particularly unforgiving as a first-time offender can result in up to 180 days in jail and a driver’s license revocation for up to one year.
  • OWI While Causing Property Damage – While there is no specific statute regarding property damage, many people are arrested for an OWI after being involved in an accident. After an accident, police will try to determine what happened. If you appear intoxicated, they may require you to complete a field sobriety test and/or a breathalyzer. If you are found to be intoxicated, the chances are high that you will be found at fault and will face OWI charges.
  • Commercial OWI – Drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) face more rigid restrictions than regular motor vehicle operators. Under Michigan law, CMV drivers cannot have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04 or higher while non-CMV drivers have a legal limit of BAC of 0.08 or higher. Commercial vehicle operators are required to have a much lower amount of alcohol in their system; even when they’re driving their own vehicle.
  • Prescription Drug OWI

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The Difference Between OWI, OWVI, OUIL, and UBAL

OWI is a hybrid version of the following two offenses:

  • Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor (OUIL)– MCL 257.625(1)(a)
  • Operating a vehicle with an unlawful bodily alcohol content (UBAL) — MCL 257.625(1)(b)

For this reason, under MCL 257.625(1), OWI requires proof of three elements:

  • The defendant operated a motor vehicle;
  • The vehicle was driven on a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles; and
  • The defendant was under the influence of liquor or a controlled substance, or a combination of the two, or with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood.

The third element is disjunctive because it can be satisfied in either of the two ways.

The Michigan Legislature enacted MCL 257.625(3), creating the offense of Operating While Visually Impaired (OWVI). The charge was created to address those situations in which a defendant’s level of intoxication and resulting impairment does not suffice to establish OWI, yet the defendant still presents a danger to the public because his or her “ability to operate the vehicle is visibly impaired.” People v. Mikulen, 324 Mich. App. 14, 22-23, 919 N.W.2d 454, 460 (2018).

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What is the Penalty for OWI in Michigan?

The maximum and minimum penalties for OWI in Michigan depend on several factors including how the crime was charged and the number and timing of any prior convictions. Additional conditions may be added to your sentencing such as vehicle forfeiture or the required installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). Below are penalties for operating a vehicle while under the influence in the state of Michigan.

Penalties for a First OWI Conviction

In general, if a person is convicted of a first OWI under Michigan law, then the court must impose one or more of the following penalties:

  • OWI and OWPD
    • Up to 93 days in jail;
    • A fine between $100 and $500;
    • Driver’s license suspension for 30 days;
    • License restrictions for up to 180 days;
    • Possible vehicle immobilization or installation of an IID; and
    • Six points added to driving record


  • OWVI
    • Up to 93 days in jail;
    • A possible fine of up to $300;
    • Up to 360 hours of possible community service;
    • Driver’s license restrictions for 90 days;
    • Possible vehicle immobilization;
    • Four points added to driving record

Penalties for a Second OWI Conviction within Seven Years

If the current OWI violation occurs within 7 years of one (1) prior conviction, the defendant could fact the following enhanced penalties:

  • OWI and OWPD
    • A minimum of 5 days and a maximum of 12 months in jail;
    • No less than 48 hours of the term must be served consecutively;
    • A possible fine between $200 and $1,000;
    • Possible community service between 30 and 90 days;
    • Driver’s license revocation and denial for a minimum of 12 months;
    • Driver’s license plate confiscation;
    • Vehicle immobilization from 90 up to 180 days;
    • Possible vehicle forfeiture altogether; and
    • Six points added to the driving record 


  • OWVI
    • A minimum of 5 days and a maximum of 12 months in jail;
    • A possible fine between $200 and $1,000;
    • Possible community service between 30 and 90 days;
    • Driver’s license revocation and denial for a minimum of 12 months;
    • Driver’s license plate confiscation;
    • Vehicle immobilization from 90 up to 180 days;
    • Possible vehicle forfeiture altogether; and
    • Four points added to driving record

Penalties for a Third OWI Conviction

If the current OWI violation occurs after two or more prior convictions, regardless of the number of years that have elapsed since any prior conviction, the person will receive enhanced penalties. They will instead be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than $500.00 or more than $5,000.00 and to either of the following:

  • Face imprisonment for no less than 12 months, but no more than 5 years;
  • No less than 48 hours of the term must be served consecutively;
  • Probation with imprisonment in county jail for no less than 30 days, but no more than 12 months; and
  • Community service for no less than 60 days, but no more than 180 days;
  • Mandatory license revocation for at least one year;
  • Possible vehicle forfeiture altogether; and
  • Six points added to the driving record

Michigan OWI Vehicle Immobilization Law

Under Michigan Law (MCL 257.625 and MCL 257.904), after a conviction for OWI the defendant may be required to have their vehicle immobilized for a period. The length of the vehicle immobilization depends on the specific OWI conviction and the defendant’s criminal history and can be found below.

  • The defendant had no prior convictions
    • Immobilization may be ordered for no more than 180 days
  • The defendant was convicted of OWI within 7 years after a prior conviction
    • Mandatory immobilization for no less than 90 days or more than 180 days unless forfeiture has been ordered by the court;
  • The defendant has two or more prior convictions
    • Mandatory immobilization for no less than one year, but no more than three years unless forfeiture was ordered by the court

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How Does Michigan Define Intoxication for?

Michigan law determines if a person is inebriated by their blood alcohol concentration level or by an assessment of the driver’s physical and mental faculties. The term “blood alcohol concentration” or BAC refers to the number of grams of alcohol in a person’s system. This is measured through various means of OWI chemical testing which includes breath analysis (breathalyzers), urinalysis, and blood analysis.

The Michigan Penal Code Section 257.625 states a person is “operating while intoxicated” if .08 grams of alcohol is found per:

  • 210 liters of breath;
  • 67 milliliters of urine; or
  • 100 milliliters of blood.

For purposes of Michigan’s OWI statute, the term “intoxicating substance” is defined to include a substance in any form, including but not limited to vapors and fumes, other than food, that was taken into the defendant’s body in any manner, that is used in a manner or for a purpose for which it was not intended, and that may result in a condition of intoxication.

The term “under the influence” is defined to means that because of drinking alcohol, using or consuming a controlled substance, or consuming or taking into the body an intoxicating substance, the defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle in a normal manner was substantially lessened.

According to the model jury instructions, a person doesn’t have to be falling down or hardly able to stand up to be considered under the influence. On the other hand, just because a person has drunk alcohol or smells of alcohol, consumed or used a controlled substance, or consumed or used an intoxicating substance, does not prove, by itself, that the person is under the influence of an intoxicating substance. The test is whether the defendant’s mental and physical condition has been significantly altered by an intoxicating substance and if they are no longer able to operate a vehicle safely.

The legal blood-alcohol concentration limits in Michigan include:

  • 08 or higher for non-commercial drivers at or over the age of 21;
  • 02 or higher for people under the age of 21; and
  • 015 or higher for people with commercial driver’s licenses (CDL)

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What Are Implied Consent Laws in Michigan?

In Michigan, driving on a public highway, road, or any place open to general traffic means you automatically have implicitly given your consent to submit to chemical testing by law enforcement. “Implied consent” laws were implemented to penalize drivers who refuse OWI chemical testing such as a urine test or breath analysis. It doesn’t matter if you’re an out of state driver, implied consent laws will still apply to you if you are using Michigan roads or highways. However, these laws do not extend to blood without a court order.

Despite implied consent laws, you can still refuse chemical testing. OWI testing has its flaws and if your results are skewed then you may be charged with OWI as a result. In some cases, it’s best to refuse OWI testing so the prosecutor won’t have any concrete scientific evidence of your OWI. You may still end up being charged with OWI, but since the prosecutor will only have subjective evidence from the officer it’s less likely you’ll be convicted or instead face a reduced sentence.

If you refuse chemical testing, you won’t face criminal penalties but administrative ones. A report of refusal will be submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office and you will have just 14 days from the date of refusal to contest it in administrative court. Failing to respond within 14 days will result in an automatic 6 points being added to your driving record as well as a one-year license suspension. If this is your second refusal within 7 years, then you will face an automatic two-year license suspension and will not be allowed right to a hardship appeal.

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Warrantless Arrest for Drunk of Impaired Driving with an Accident

An officer is permitted to make a warrantless arrest if the officer has reasonable cause to believe the person was involved in an accident in Michigan while operating a vehicle and:

  • While under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance, or any combination thereof
  • With an unlawful bodily alcohol content
  • While visibly impaired
  • With any bodily alcohol content if the person is under 21
  • While violating certain provisions in MCL 257.625 and having occupants under age 16 in the vehicle

Under Michigan law, the authority for a warrantless arrest also extends to violations of substantially corresponding local ordinances.

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Additional Resources

Michigan OWI Laws – Visit the official website for the Michigan Legislature to learn more about operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) laws and penalties. Access the site to view the various types of OWI offenses, what additional sanctions can be added to your sentence, and the elements required by Michigan state to convict someone of OWI. 

Getting Your License Back | SOS – Visit the official website for the Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to learn how you can get your license back if you were accused of OWI. Access the site to learn how to appeal for a driver license restoration, fees required to reinstate your license and what to do when preparing for your driver license appeal hearing.

Bloomfield Hills DUI Defense Attorney | Michigan DUI Laws

Have you been accused of OWI in the Michigan Bloomfield Hills area? Find experienced and aggressive legal representation with the skilled legal team at Dallo Law, P.C.. Attorney Dallo and his team are passionate about what they do and treat every individual case as a priority. With his past in MMA, collegiate, and golden gloves fighting, attorney Dallo has proven himself to be a fierce competitor and he demonstrates that fighting spirit in the courtroom as well.

Don’t wait another moment to start building your defense with attorney Dallo. He is always sure to have his client’s best interests in mind and will do everything in his power to ensure they get the best possible result for their case. Set up your first consultation with Mr. Dallo by calling (248) 283-7000. Dallo Law, P.C. accepts clients throughout the greater Oakland County and Macomb County, Michigan area.