First Time Michigan DUI Penalties: OWI - Operating While Intoxicated

Increasing, a large number of jurisdictions in Michigan are using OWI, also known "Operating While Intoxicated," as a reduction for Superdrunk charges, where the motorist has a BAC of .17 or greater. In a few jurisdictions, however, if a person is involved in a property damage accident, the prosecutor maintains policies that do not permit reduction from OWI to OWVI. That said, however, a first time Michigan DUI offense can usually be reduced to impaired driving, also known as OWVI. An OWVI counts as a drunk driving conviction, so it is important to consider challenging the case before accepting a plea to impaired. If you have a prior conviction for OWI, OWVI, or even a Minor BAC, a second offense within 7 years qualifies as an OWI 2nd, and a third offense for any combination of drunk driving offenses in a lifetime qualifies as a felony. Likewise, if a person is charged with operating while intoxicated with a passenger under 16 years of age in the vehicle, the driver will be charged with a felony drunk driving offense if the motorist has a prior conviction for any drunk driving offense, including OWI or OWVI.

Summary of Penalties for a Michigan OWI

  • Recorded as "misdemeanor" conviction as opposed to felony conviction on criminal record
  • Jail up to 93 days
  • Probation for up to 2 years with alcohol and drug monitoring
  • Fines up to $500, "plus court costs" which totals over $1,000.00
  • 30 days hard suspension on Michigan driver's license, eligible to drive for the balance of the six months (150 days) on a restricted basis, i.e. to / from / and in connection with work, court ordered programs, and emergency medical treatment
  • Up to 360 hours community service
  • Six points on your Michigan driver's license
  • $1,000.00 per year for two years "Driver Responsibility Fee" charged by the Secretary of State through the Michigan Department of Treasury

A second offense for either OWI or OWVI within seven years of a prior OWI or OWVI results in tougher penalties, greater likelihood of jail, and a lifetime revocation of a person's driver's license. A third offense for any combination of OWI and OWVI charges in a lifetime is a felony OWI 3rd offense, which carries mandatory jail and a possible prison term of up to 5 years.

Can I get a Michigan DUI reduced to Reckless Driving?

It may be possible in some jurisdictions to get a drunk driving charge reduced to reckless driving. While many people hope to obtain a reduction to reckless driving instead of a drunk driving conviction, reckless driving carries a 90 day "hard" suspension. A hard suspension means that there are no restricted privileges. The convicted motorist may not drive for 90 days at all under any circumstance, and getting caught driving during this period of time will result in additional sanctions as well as a new criminal charged of "Driving While License Suspended / Denied / Revoked" (DWLS). A first offense impaired conviction, on the other hand, carries only a 90 restriction on a person's driver's license, and an OWI conviction carries a 30 hard suspension as opposed to the 90 day hard suspension provided by the Michigan Secretary of State following conviction. Given the choice between the two alternatives, many people prefer to save the driver's license. In cases where the motorist is facing a charge of OWI 2nd, however, the reduction down to a reckless driving is a no-brainer because a person's driver's license is revoked after two alcohol-related convictions within 7 years.