Do I Need a Lawyer for an OWI?

If you've been pulled over for driving under the influence, you could face some severe penalties. However, it's important to remember that while you can defend yourself if the case goes to court, it's best to consult a lawyer.

DUIs in Michigan

In Michigan, DUIs are called OWIs, operating while intoxicated. Drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or any amount of a controlled substance could be charged with an OWI.

Drivers may also be charged with an OWVI, operating while visibly impaired, which means they show physical symptoms of intoxication. This could refer to slurred speech, staggering, or erratic behavior. In addition, if the driver is under the influence of a controlled substance, they may have enlarged pupils or bloodshot eyes.

OWI Penalties

  • First offense OWIs may result in up to 93 days in jail or 180 days if the driver's BAC is over 0.17%. Offenders will also be required to pay up to $500 in fines and commit to 360 hours of community service.
  • Second offense OWIs result in up to one year in jail, fines up to $1,000, and 30-90 days of community services.
  • Third offense OWIs can result in up to five years in prison, a fine of no more than $5,000, and up to 180 days of community service.
  • OWVI charges have the same punishments as regular OWIs, but offenders owe a fine of $300.

The judge can seize your vehicle if they see fit, but seizure is optional for the first offense. Then, depending on your specific case, the judge may choose to immobilize your vehicle to ensure that you do not re-offend. Finally, if you are convicted of a third offense, OWI, the judge can seize your vehicle for up to three years.

Michigan does not tolerate the endangerment of minors, so if you are convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated with a passenger under 16, you may spend up to one year in jail.

What Do I Do If I'm Pulled Over for an OWI?

If you are stopped by law enforcement, follow instructions and stay calm. Roll down your window and answer their questions and be prepared to hand over your license and registration. If the officer decides to arrest you for an OWI, cooperate and stay calm. Don't answer police questions without an attorney present.

Also, keep in mind that while you can refuse a breath test or field sobriety test, you may still have to take one at the police station. Plus, if your case goes to court, the judge may see your refusal as an admission of guilt.

Why You Need a Lawyer

OWIs are serious charges, and they can affect your ability to find employment in the future. However, it's also important to understand that different factors in your case may exacerbate the situation.

For example, you are operating while intoxicated and you cause an accident. The other driver is seriously injured, but the passenger in the backseat is killed instantly. If the court finds that you are solely responsible for the accident, the charges could be elevated to a felony. In Michigan, even low-class felonies may result in prison time.

Not only do OWIs remain on your record and result in severe penalties, but they can ruin your reputation. Unfortunately, family members, friends, and coworkers sometimes view OWI offenders differently. While this change in perception isn't fair, it's essential to understand that it can happen.

An attorney can guide you through the conviction process and offer guidance and support. Qualified legal professionals understand how evidence, breath tests, and criminal history play into OWI cases which helps them to provide counsel based on experience.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for an OWI, contact White Law PLLC.