Michigan OWI First Offense Charges

You probably know operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) is a serious crime in the state of Michigan. What you may not know, however, is just how serious it actually is—even if it your first brush with the law. Indeed, if you are convicted of a Michigan OWI first offense, you may be sentenced to fines, community service, and even jail time.

First Offense Penalties

The potential punishment for first offense drunk driving is up to 93 days in jail, a 100-500 dollar fine and up to 360 hours of community service.  In addition to this, your driver’s license will be suspended for 180 days with no driving for the first 30 days.  During the next 150 days you will have a restricted license that will allow you to drive, 24 hours a day 7 days a week to and from (and where applicable during) the following: place of employment, education, medical care for you and your family – essentially no pleasure driving, such as groceries banking, etc.

If  you have prior Michigan or out of state offenses that are substantially similar, and these are more than 7 years old, then you will still be charged as a first offender.  However, the judge can still take this information into consideration in deciding where within that 180 days, your sentence should fall.

There are circumstances where you may have one prior within 7 years or even 2 priors within your lifetime and still be charged as a first offender.   On the other hand, your lawyer may be able to have the case reduced from a second offense or felony drunk driving to a first offense. If this is true, then the penalties from the court will be first offense penalties, but the driver license sanction will be a second or third offense driver license sanction, meaning 1 – 5 year license revocation.

It is very typical for a first offense drunk driving to be reduced to the alcohol related charge of impaired driving.  This is also a 93 day alcohol related misdemeanor.  However, the fine is lower, up to $300 and there are fewer points 4 rather than 6 and most significantly there is no license loss, as an impaired driving will result in a 90 day restricted license.

OWI Driving Laws

Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above .08% is illegal in Michigan. Therefore, anyone driving with a BAC above .08% can also be charged with unlawful blood content, or UBAL—regardless of whether his or her driving abilities were impaired. Due to the state’s Zero Tolerance Law, drivers under the legal drinking age of 21 can be charged with UBAL if their BAC is above .02%.  As a result, if you failed a breath test or refused to submit to chemical testing, you may face additional charges and increased penalties.

Clearly, the consequences of an OWI first offense are life-altering. Moreover, it is important to note that your life will be impacted long after your sentence is complete. An OWI conviction will not only make it difficult to obtain affordable auto insurance, but also permanently remain on your criminal record. This means anyone who checks your background will know you were caught drunk driving—a fact that can seriously jeopardize future job, housing, and educational opportunities.

Building a Defense

Fortunately, a skilled first offense OWI attorney can help you fight your drunk driving charges. With over a decade of experience in OWI defense, attorney Patrick T. Barone has the knowledge to represent you. Contact Barone Defense Firm today for a free consultation on your case.