Impaired driving in Michigan

The penalties for even a first impaired driving offense in Michigan may include the required use of an ignition interlock device.

It should be no surprise to residents in Michigan that the penalties for any form of impaired driving have gotten tougher over the last few decades. With the growth in the number of awareness campaigns designed to educate the public about the risks of driving after drinking alcohol or using drugs, anyone arrested for these offenses can face a tough road ahead.

Despite the plethora of information about impaired driving, it is easy to be confused about the different types of offenses that a person may be charged with. Understanding these is important.

What is OWVI?

Operating while visibly impaired is a charge that a person may be arrested for if he or she is suspected of driving while impaired by the consumption of alcohol. The state does identify a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent as the threshold for determining intoxication. However, it is essential for all Michigan residents to know that OWVI charges can be made against drivers with BAC levels below this threshold as well. If a person can be identified as being impaired and unable to drive safely even with a BAC of 0.06 percent, for example, criminal charges may result.

What is OWPD?
Operating with any presence of a Schedule I drug or cocaine is a charge that may result if a person is found to be operating a vehicle with cocaine or another Schedule I drug in his or her system. Unlike with alcohol, there is no minimum level at which a person is deemed impaired. Even the slightest trace of these substances may result in a criminal charge.

Are impaired driving offenses misdemeanors or felonies?

A person may face misdemeanor or felony charges for an impaired operation offense. For OWVI offenses, any incident that involves an accident resulting in either the serious injury or death of a person may be classified as a felony. The same is true for any incident in which the driver has been previously convicted of at least two other impaired driving offenses.

Will I lose the right to drive if arrested for an OWVI?

Even for a first-time offense, drivers may be subject to suspension of their drivers' licenses. For BAC levels of 0.16 percent or lower, a six-month suspension may occur although a restricted license may be allowed after 30 days. For BAC levels of 0.17 percent, drivers may experience a 12-month suspension and be eligible for restricted privileges after 45 days.

People arrested with high BAC levels, those at or over 0.17 percent, may also be required to install and use ignition interlock devices.

How can I get help if I am arrested for impaired driving?

There are many elements of the defense process that can be understandably confusing to people arrested for impaired driving. Talking to an attorney after an arrest is always recommended as this provides the best access to accurate information at this time.