Frequently Asked Questions About OWI In Michigan
The penalties for drunk driving can seem out of proportion to the offense. There are many confusing terms and you probably have questions about the legal process. This FAQ addresses some common questions about OWI. If you are facing OWI charges, we invite to call 231-735-8575 for a free consultation to address your specific circumstances.
What is the difference between OWI and DUI?
They are basically interchangeable. OWI (operating while intoxicated) is the official term used by Michigan courts. Some law enforcement officers may use the term DUI (driving under the influence) but it is the same thing.
Will I get jail time for an OWI?
Jail is always on the table, even for a first offense, at the discretion of the court. Jail time is more likely — and sometimes mandatory — for aggravating factors such as repeat OWI, child endangerment or high BAC. This is another reason to seek legal counsel after any drunk driving arrest.
How long is OWI license suspension in Michigan?
For a first-time OWI, there is a mandatory “hard suspension” of 30 days, plus 150 days of restricted driving if you qualify and pay a fee. The suspension period increases for subsequent arrests or factors such as high BAC. If your license has been suspended or revoked for drunk driving, our attorneys can help you get your driving privileges reinstated.
What is the Super Drunk law in Michigan?
The Super Drunk statute applies if your blood-alcohol content (BAC) was measured at .17 or greater (twice the legal limit). Because of the greater risk of causing serious injury or death, the penalties for Super Drunk OWI are much harsher than a “regular” OWI. Super Drunk typically applies only to a first offense.
Can I be convicted of OWI for “flunking” the field sobriety tests?
Roadside sobriety tests like the Walk-And-Turn can be used to make an arrest, but the prosecution needs additional proof to obtain an OWI conviction — namely a BAC of .08 or greater.. An experienced defense attorney can challenge the field sobriety tests as a basis for arrest if the initial traffic stop was unlawful or if the tests were conducted improperly.
What happens if I refuse the breathalyzer?
Michigan, like every state, has an implied consent law. This means that you “agree” to provide a sample of your breath, blood or urine if you are arrested on suspicion of operating while intoxicated.
Refusal to submit to a chemical test (breathalyzer or blood/urine sample) is a separate statutory offense. You will automatically lose your license for one year, whether or not you are ultimately convicted of OWI. If you already refused the breathalyzer, call a lawyer immediately.
What are the penalties for underage drinking and driving?
Michigan has a Zero Tolerance statute. This means a driver under the legal drinking age of 21 can be punished for having any measurable amount of alcohol in their system (.02 BAC). A first Zero Tolerance offense is a $100 fine. A second offense before the age of 21 is a bigger fine plus license suspension. If an underage driver’s BAC is .08 or greater, they can be charged with OWI, subject to the full adult penalties.
Can I be charged with OWI if I was sitting in my parked car?
Yes, a driver can be arrested for OWI if they are in physical control of the vehicle, even if the car was not moving. However, there are viable defenses. The prosecution must prove that the person drove drunk before parking or intended to drive away while still inebriated.
What counts as a felony OWI?
Drunk driving becomes a felony crime upon a third offense, or any OWI offense that involves a property damage accident, an injury accident or transporting a child under the age of 16. The potential punishment for a felony OWI arrest demands an experienced defense.
What Other Questions Can We Answer?
The choice of attorney is important if you are facing OWI charges. 231-735-8575 handles drunk driving cases in northern Michigan and beyond. Call our Traverse City law firm at 231-735-8575 to arrange a free consultation.