Michigan's OWI and DUI Laws

As summer winds down and students head back to school this fall, East Lansing and surrounding areas can expect crowded bars and a lively night life. Of course, if alcohol consumption figures into your plans for the night, transportation to and from bars, clubs or restaurants is vitally important to ensuring a safe night out. Most everyone has seen the campaigns against driving while drunk, and the stigma of an OWI conviction carries severe penalties and consequences for those who are caught by law enforcement. Learn what an OWI is and how to prevent it, as well as the potential consequences of an OWI conviction.

What is an OWI?

OWI stands for Operating While Intoxicated and is identical to the more well-known charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). OWI is the more widely used term in the state of Michigan. Whether you have committed an OWI depends on a few factors, but the charge will mostly depend on you Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).

For minors, or those under the age of 21, there is a zero-tolerance rule in place. This means that if a minor has more than a 0.02% BAC, then the minor is committing an OWI. For those over the age of 21, anything at or above a 0.08% BAC will potentially result in an OWI charge.

Unfortunately, there is no sure way to measure whether you are safe to drive prior to getting behind the wheel without a chemical test. In general, BAC will vary between individuals based on: (1) amount and type of alcohol consumed; (2) how long someone has been consuming alcohol; and (3) the weight, height, and gender of the individual.

Can I refuse a field sobriety test or preliminary breath test?

A field sobriety test or preliminary breath test is typically done prior to arrest in order to establish probable cause that an individual has been drinking. When stopped by a police officer, refusal to take the field sobriety test can result in a fine or jail time and if driving when requested to take a preliminary breath test, will likely result in an additional automatic one year suspension of one’s driver’s license. If law enforcement finds that there is a reason to believe that an individual has been drinking alcohol or is otherwise intoxicated, they can be charged with an OWI

What are the consequences of an OWI conviction?

In general, first time offenders will most likely face fines, counseling, mandatory attendance at alcohol awareness program,and community service, as well as required attendance in Alcoholics Anonymous. Generally, repeat offenders will face more serious consequences. However, any OWI, whether a first offense or not, can lead to potential jail time or even the loss of one’s driver’s license.

Put simply, an OWI is a serious offense. It has a wide-range of far reaching consequences that are not just limited to those within the court system. One’s employment, scholarships, and automobile insurance rates might be in jeopardy as a result of an OWI conviction. If you plan on attending professional schools (for example, law school, medical school, or nursing school), you could be denied admission based on your conviction. Furthermore, you must always check the “yes” box on job applications when asked about convictions. Lastly, for non-citizens residing in the United States, naturalization can be denied. An individual who is not a U.S. citizen might also be deported or have their green card or visa denied for renewal.

Avoiding or mitigating the consequences of an OWI charge is important to your future. If you find that you are in trouble, contact the experienced Okemos criminal defense attorneys at White Law PLLC. Your future is important – don’t let one mistake ruin your future. Contact us today.