DUI Charges in Michigan

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In Michigan, there are three tiers of drunk driving charges that may be brought against an offender. These are, in an ascending order of severity, OWVI (Operating While Visibly Impaired), UBAC/UBAL (Unlawful Bodily Alcohol Content/Level), and OWI (Operating While Intoxicated).

This is an explanation of the difference between the offenses, as well as the penalties that each of them incurs.


DUI Charge: OWVI (Operating While Visibly Impaired)

This least serious of the 3 DUI offenses; to establish guilt, the prosecutor needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was operating his or her motor vehicle, and that the defendant's ability to operate their vehicle was impaired by alcohol. While the federal blood alcohol (BAC) limit is 0.08 g/dL, a driver can also be charged for a lower blood alcohol level, if the prosecution can establish intoxication.

It's known that the relative risk of an accident increases by more than a factor of 2 between BAC levels of 0.01 and 0.05, so a person presenting with a BAC of 0.05 can face an OWVI charge if they seem intoxicated or disoriented, or in some other way unfit to operate a vehicle.

The difference between an OWVI charge and other, graver charges is that:

  1. The charge can only be brought if the driver shows outward signs of impairment by alcohol.
  2. These standards rely on the arresting officer's judgment.
  3. If the driver's BAC is under the federal limit and they don't show signs of impairment, there isn't much of a case.


DUI Charge: UBAC/UBAL (Unlawful Bodily Alcohol Content/Level)

A UBAC case is more serious, and relies solely on the vehicle operator's blood alcohol content. To put it in simple terms, if a driver's BAC level exceeds 0.08 g/dL, it doesn't matter if they present outward signs of impairment – even if they have the coordination to juggle burning chainsaws, they will be arrested and charged.

The prosecutor, then, needs to prove that the defendant was operating a motor vehicle (or any other vehicle defined by law, which, in Michigan, includes vehicles such as bicycles, snowmobiles, boats, farming implements, buggies and even horses) at the time of arrest, and that their BAC exceeded 0.08.

  1. With a UBAC/UBAL, it doesn't matter whether the defendant shows outward signs of impairment.
  2. The best way to fight this charge is to attack the DUI breath test, if that was used to determine BAC level.


DUI Charge: OWI (Operating While Intoxicated)

This charge requires the prosecution to show that the accused was operating a motor vehicle, that the quantity of alcohol exceeded the legal limit, and that their ability to operate the equipment was substantially affected by alcohol (or other controlled substances).

It's important to remember that, like many states, Michigan has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drivers under 21 years of age. Any alcohol in the blood of a driver under 21 is grounds for license revocation and other penalties.

Each and every instance of intoxicated driving should be reviewed by a qualified Michigan OWI lawyer. Call Attorney Joseph Awad at (877) MY CRIME to learn more about how to address your particular situation.


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The Law Office of Joseph F. Awad is Michigan's Premier Drunk Driving Defenders.

The Law Office of Joseph F. Awad, P.C. specializes in Criminal Defense of Michigan Drunk Driving OWI OUIL DUI Charges. Aggressive and Experienced, Attorney Awad will fight for your rights.

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