Following the trend of most other U.S. jurisdictions, Michigan lawmakers have taken steps in recent years to significantly toughen the penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In Michigan, driving under the influence is officially called either OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) or OWVI (Operating While Visibly Impaired). These offenses are generally synonymous with the DWI or DUI labels used in some other states.
Most drivers are aware that operating a vehicle under the influence may result in penalties that can include possible jail time, fines, loss or restriction of driving privileges, probation, and other conditions to reinstatement a driver’s license.
Michigan’s laws concerning driving under the influence or impaired driving are very complex. The consequences of these unlawful driving activities depend on many factors, including: the number of prior convictions the driver has had before the current Michigan arrest, the blood alcohol level, and who might be in the vehicle with the driver.
Perhaps the most significant factor affecting the severity of an OWI/OWVI sentence is if the driver has caused personal injury or property damage. The harshest consequences occur in the case of death or serious injury – even for first-time OWI/OWVI violators.
Under Section 625(4) of the Michigan criminal statutes dealing with driving under the influence or impaired driving – or driving with a suspended, revoked, or denied license – a person who has caused death or serious injury will be charged with a felony offense.
In the case of a death, the driver can face up to 15 years imprisonment, or a fine of $2,500 to $10,000, or both. If the death was caused to an emergency responder, the penalty jumps to a possible 20 years imprisonment, or a fine of $2,500 to $10,000 or both. If the driver caused serious personal injury, he or she can face up to 5 years imprisonment, or a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, or both.
In all of these situations, there are additional consequences including license revocation and denial for a minimum of 1 year (or minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years); license plate confiscation; vehicle immobilization for up to 180 days or possible vehicle forfeiture; 6 points on the driving record, and payment of a Driver Responsibility Fee of $1,000 for 2 consecutive years.
Compare this to the much lower maximum penalties for a first-offense OWI/OWVI without serious injury or death – characterized as a misdemeanor instead of a felony: up to 93 days in jail; fine from $100 to $500; license suspension up to 6 months, but eligible for restricted license after 30 days; 6 points on the driving record; a $1,000 Driver Responsibility Fee for 2 years; and community service. However, if the driver causes property damage – including to his or her own vehicle – these penalties may increase – perhaps doubling.
If you have been arrested for an OWI/OWVI in Ann Arbor, contact Ann Arbor drunk driving attorney Stacey Washington. Stacey Washington has helped numerous clients mitigate any long-term consequences of OWIs/OWVIs charges and/or convictions.