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Michigan's Drunk Driving Laws

Michigan's Drunk Driving Laws

Michigan Drunk Driving Law Information


In the state of Michigan there are three specific drunk driving offenses that can be prosecuted. The first is called O.W.I., or “Operating While Intoxicated.”. The second is referred to as driving with an unlawful bodily alcohol level/content (UBAL/UBAC). The last is dubbed an OWVI, or operating while visibly impaired.
What exactly is the difference between these three seemingly similar offenses?

An OWVI is the least grave charge of the three. In a case such as this, the Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person in question was (1) driving his/her motor vehicle and was doing so (2) while alcohol undermined his/her capacity to drive an automobile. These standards are relatively low and their existence is determined by a police officer's judgment. Therefore, they are more a matter of police opinion than anything specifically scientific.

In a UBAC case, the prosecutor has to prove two things: First, that the alleged transgressor was the operator of the vehicle during the time in question. Second, that the driver possessed a blood alcohol content (BAC) which exceeded a level of 0.08% while operating a motor vehicle.

The OWI offense requires the prosecutor to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was operating a motor vehicle. Second, they must demonstrate that the defendant was under the influence of a controlled substance and/or alcohol while driving. The prosecutor bears the burden of demonstrating that the operation of the vehicle was substantially affected by the consumption of those substances.

Anyone can be prosecuted for the above mentioned offenses if they meet the threshold for intoxicated driving. The legal limit in Michigan is .08%. Over and above the ordinary drunk driving laws, persons under 21 are held to an even stricter standard: there is virtually no legal limit for underage persons who drive with alcohol in their system. There are a number of Michigan traffic laws that affect people under the legal drinking age. 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.

It's critical to remember that the State has to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crimes alleged. This places the “burden of proof” on the accuser, rather than on the accused. This is what differentiates the US justice system from others systems throughout the world. In America, a person, is “innocent until proven guilty,” not guilty until proven innocent. This is intended to discourage abuses of power in the legal system and ensures that convictions don't happen haphazardly.

A plea or finding of guilt in an OWI or UBAC charge is punishable by a $500 penalty, plus costs, as well as the possibility of 93 days in jail and 360 hours of community service.

A guilty finding for “Operating While Visibly Impaired” (OWVI) is can result in a $300 fine, plus costs, as many as 93 days in jail and the possibility of community service.

A second drunk driving crime whether OUIL, UBAC, OWI can result in 1 year of jail time and in a $1,000 fine. A third alcohol-related driving conviction can cost up to 5,000 dollars in fines and costs and carries the potential of possible prison time.

License suspension also accompanies any drunk driving crime. The suspensions are handed down by the Secretary of State and are a direct effect of what occurs in court. A first offense OWI conviction, for example, will result in 30 day suspended license, followed by 150 days of restricted privileges, allowing you to drive to and from, and during the course of employment, for school, medical care, and any court-related obligations that you may need to attend.

In the case of an “Impaired” driving conviction, the State will suspend the operator's privileges to drive, but offer a “restricted license” for the 90 period in which the suspension runs. This type of license also allows the person to travel from home to work to community service to school and to alcohol treatment. Proof of destination must be carried at all times in these situations.

Prior drunk driving violations can revoke one's ability to drive altogether. In Michigan, multiple offenses within certain time frames can compel a license revocation to extend for years. The timing of the convictions and the overall driving record play a central role in determining if and when you can drive, and, if so, what needs to be demonstrated in order to reinstate one's privileges. For a comprehensive discussion of your case and the best method to maintain your license, call or email Joseph Awad for a complete and confidential assessment. (734-507-1333)

There are additional consequences that can attach to a drunk-driving conviction, including the possibility of vehicle immobilization or even forfeiture, the additional of multiple traffic points, and other sanctions the court and State deem proper. Make every effort to distance yourself from the harsh sanctions that await the unprepared drunk driving defendant, and call Attorney Joseph Awad, today.
And that is not all!

The judge must order the drunk driver in all alcohol related motor vehicle convictions to go through screening for alcohol and substance abuse. The judge must order rehabilitation as part of the sentence for a second offense. Both will be done at the drunk defendant's expense.

Anyone driving with his or her license suspended or revoked is also subject to license suspension or revocation for a similar period of the original suspension or revocation.

B. Calculating Bodily Alcohol Content (BAC)

Calculating the bodily alcohol content (BAC) is not an exact science. It is also an art in the hands of those collecting and testing bodily specimens for alcohol. A 12-ounce can of beer or shot of whiskey may result in a different BAC depending on a person's gender, race, height, weight, metabolic rate, and medical history, among other things.

However, calculating the BAC is not so impossible that we cannot arrive at something reasonably reliable for the purposes of this handbook. As a general rule, to calculate an individual's bodily alcohol concentration, follow these three steps:

Count the number of drinks consumed. A drink is defined as one ounce of 100 proof liquor; one 12-ounce bottle of beer; or five ounces of wine.

Look at the chart, below, for the appropriate BAC.

From the BAC on the chart below, subtract the amount of alcohol eliminated since the first drink. The rate of elimination varies based on the factors stated above.

Some people use .015% which is a slow metabolic rate, others use a .02% per hour. Use both as a high and low rate to arrive at a reasonable range.

The formula above and data below are for general information purposes only, and should not be used in a criminal prosecution or civil case.


Example: A 180 lb. man began drinking beer at 1:00 p.m., and consumed 8 , 12 oz. Cans by 3:00 p.m.. He was in a car crash at 3:30 p.m. What was his BAC at the time of the crash?

STEPS #1 & #2: According to the male chart above, 8 beers for an 180 lb. man results in a BAC of .167%.

STEP #3: From .167% subtract (.015% x 2.5 hours), which results in a BAC of .1295% at crash time. .015% is a slower dissipation rate, and 2.5 hours is the time elapsed between the first beer and the crash. Then, from .167% subtract (.02% x 2.5 hours), which results in a BAC of .117%. This time we used a faster rate of disspiation of .02%. The BAC range is, therefore, .117% to .1295%, both of which qualify this man to be charged with OUIL.


Prepared by Michigan Dept of State/Driver License Appeal Division 1/1/2001. Compiled by Michael B. Rizik Jr, Personal Injury Attorney ,8226 South Saginaw Street, Ste A. Grand Blanc, MI 48439

Your OWI/ Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being arrested for drunk driving (OWI) or any criminal offense can be very scary; but bouncing back better than ever starts with finding the right attorney - a lawyer who understands you and the charge you're facing. Having handled countless cases across Michigan has earned me the reputation, expertise, and understanding to navigate your case the right way. As as solo practitioner, your case is my top priority. It will remain my top priority as I work every angle to accomplish our mutual goals of keeping your record clean, avoiding jail, and maintaining your driving privileges. Work and family are top priorities; everything I do for you is an extension of the many responsibilities you have and the people who rely on you. Call today for the peace of mind of consulting a legal expert best suited to keeping your life moving in the right direction.