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What Are The Penalties For Operating While Intoxicated (OWI/OWPD) in Michigan? - MCL 257.625(1)

The days when a drunk driver would spend a night sobering up in jail and be released the next day with a fine are long past. A conviction for operating while intoxicated in Michigan can have significant criminal penalties, stiff financial obligations and severe consequences to your driver's license. It is also a very dynamic area of the law frequently amended by the Michigan Legislature. However, more often than not, these amendments usually result in higher fines, harsher license sanctions or simply make it easier for the prosecutor and police to prove the offense by relaxing evidence standards.

A person is guilty of operating while intoxicated if the prosecutor can prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Second, that the person was operating the vehicle on a highway or another place open to the public or generally accessible to the motor vehicles. This definition is VERY BROAD and, recently, the Michigan Supreme Court held that a private driveway was "generally accessible to motor vehicles" for the purpose of sustaining a drunk driving conviction under MCL 257.625(1). See People v Rea, 500 Mich 422; 902 NW2d 362 (2017).
  • Third, while operating the vehicle, the person had a bodily alcohol content (BAC) at or above 0.08 OR had the presence of cocaine or a Schedule 1 drug in his or her system. After an arrest, law enforcement will almost always request that the suspect submit to either an evidential breath test with the DataMaster DMT or a blood test. For the DataMaster DMT test to be admissible in court, the police must follow specific regulation such as proper calibration, regular testing and observation of the suspect for 15 minutes prior to obtaining a sample. For a hospital blood draw to be admissible in court, the sample must generally be either from hospital personnel drawn for medical treatment purposes or by consent of the suspect. If the trier of fact (the judge or jury) finds you had a BAC at or above 0.08 or had the presence of cocaine or a Schedule 1 drug in your system, your intoxication is assumed despite your actual driving performance.

Schedule 1 drugs in Michigan follow the scheduling established by federal law and contain a category of controlled substances believed to have no current known medical use (e.g. heroin, LSD and marihuana). There are exceptions to operating a vehicle with the presence of marihuana in your system provided that the driver is in compliance with the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA). For everyone else, the mere presence of a Schedule 1 drug, cocaine or an alcohol BAC of 0.08 in your system is enough for the court to assume that you were intoxicated. As a result, it is common for criminal defense attorneys to attack the admissibility of the DataMaster DMT results or blood test draws ahead of trial to protect their clients from these assumptions.

The penalties for operating while intoxicated are as follows:

  • For a first offense, the penalty is a misdemeanor conviction punishable by:
  1. A fine between $100.00 and $500.00
  2. Jail sentence up to 93 days.
  3. Community service up to 360 hours.
  4. Driver's License is suspended for the first 30 days, then restricted for the following 150 days with no hardship appeal.
  5. Possible vehicle immobilization
  6. 6 points added to your Michigan driving record
  7. Driver Responsibility Fee of $1,000.00 for two consecutive years (will be eliminated and forgiven by October 1st, 2018).
  • For a second offense occurring within the last seven years, the penalty is a misdemeanor conviction punishable by:
  1. A fine between $200.00 and $1,000.00.
  2. Jail sentence not less than 5 days but not more than one year (48 hours must be served consecutively).
  3. Community service between 30 days and 90 days.
  4. Driver's License is revoked for at least one year.
  5. Possible vehicle immobilization and forfeiture.
  6. 6 points added to your Michigan driving record.
  7. Driver Responsibility Fee of $1,000.00 for two consecutive years (will be eliminated and forgiven by October 1st, 2018).
  • For a third or subsequent offense, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by:
  1. A fine between $500.00 and $5,000.00.
  2. Prison sentence between 1 to 5 years OR probation with a jail sentence between 30 days and one year (48 hours must be served consecutively) and community service between 60 days and 180 days.
  3. Driver's License is revoked for at least one year.
  4. Vehicle immobilization or forfeiture.
  5. 6 points added to your Michigan driving record.
  6. Driver Responsibility Fee of $1,000.00 for two consecutive years (will be eliminated and forgiven by October 1st, 2018).
  • If the offense resulted in the serious impairment of a body function of another person, contrary to MCL 257.625(5)(a), the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by:
  1. A fine between $1,000.00 and $5,000.00.
  2. Imprisonment up to 5 years
  3. Driver's License is revoked for at least one year.
  4. Vehicle immobilization or forfeiture.
  5. 6 points added to your Michigan driving record.
  6. Driver Responsibility Fee of $1,000.00 for two consecutive years (will be eliminated and forgiven by October 1st, 2018).
  • If the offense resulted in the death of another person, contrary to MCL 257.625(4)(a), the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by:
  1. A fine between $2,500.00 and $10,000.00.
  2. Imprisonment up to 15 years
  3. Driver's License is revoked for at least one year.
  4. Vehicle immobilization or forfeiture.
  5. 6 points added to your Michigan driving record.
  6. Driver Responsibility Fee of $1,000.00 for two consecutive years (will be eliminated and forgiven by October 1st, 2018).
  • If the offense resulted in the death of a police officer, firefighter or other emergency personnel, contrary to MCL 257.625(4)(c), the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by:
  1. A fine between $2,500.00 and $10,000.00.
  2. Imprisonment up to 20 years
  3. Driver's License is revoked for at least one year.
  4. Vehicle immobilization or forfeiture.
  5. 6 points added to your Michigan driving record.
  6. Driver Responsibility Fee of $1,000.00 for two consecutive years (will be eliminated and forgiven by October 1st, 2018).

Michigan has taken a tough stand against drunk driving, but that is no reason to accepting defeat in a criminal prosecution. As always, remember that prosecutors has the burden of proving your guilt and a knowledgeable and skilled criminal defense lawyer will hold them to that standard. If you are accused of any drunk driving offense, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC to get the best defense possible.

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