The 411 on OWIs: Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated in Michigan


While DUI – driving under the influence – is the typical term for drunk driving, in the state of Michigan, law enforcement usually uses the phrase Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). Regardless of what you call it, driving drunk is a serious problem, a danger to others, and one step away from a fatal car accident. As such, the harsh penalties for the behavior reflect the seriousness of the offense.

OWI – First Offense

Your first OWI is ideally your last, especially once you clearly grasp the magnitude of the imposed fines, which can include:

  • Jail sentence of up to 93 days
  • Fine between $100 to $500
  • License suspension up to six months
  • Interlock ignition device may be required

OWI – Second Offense

Making the same mistake twice can absolutely cost you when it’s an OWI in Michigan. Here are the penalties:

  • Jail sentence of five days to one year, or 30 to 90 days of community service
  • Fine between $200 and $1,000
  • Minimum one-year license suspension
  • Installation of an interlock ignition device

OWI – Third Offense

There is a low tolerance for drinking and driving, and if you are so unwise as to attempt to get behind the wheel for a third time after having too many alcoholic beverages and being pulled over, the decision will be a serious one:

  • Jail sentence of 30 days to five years
  • Fine between $200 and $1,000
  • Minimum one-year license suspension
  • Installation of an interlock ignition device

OWI: Misdemeanor or Felony?

First and second OWI arrests in Michigan are typically classified as a misdemeanor, though the ultimate classification will depend on the circumstances surrounding the offense. If the DUI also results in an auto accident that causes serious bodily injury, or a fatality, the crime may be classified as a felony. Being charged with a third OWI within a span of seven years is automatically a felony.

You can, of course, refuse to take a chemical test to determine what your blood alcohol content is (it is illegal to drive with a .08 BAC or above), but this choice will not protect you from punishment. There is an implied consent law in Michigan, which means that refusing to submit to this test will likely result in a fine and automatic license suspension.

The loss of a family member to a fatal drunk driving accident is devastating. While nothing can be done to bring that person back, a wrongful death lawsuit can help make sure the family doesn’t suffer from the loss of a person’s income or ability to provide care and services. Christensen Law, located in Southfield, Michigan, will help your family get the compensation you need and the closure you want.