If you have been charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Michigan, it may be possible to have the charge reduced through plea bargaining. Depending on the details of your case and your prior criminal history, an experienced OWI defense attorney may be able to work with the prosecutor to have the charge reduced to operating while visibly impaired (OWVI).
At arraignment, in the beginning of the case, you have a choice of either pleading guilty or not guilty, or standing mute, in which case the judge or magistrate will enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf. At the beginning of the case, it’s important for people to know that the ultimate plea that happens at the end of the case, whether it be guilty, or not guilty, or no contest, is not what they’re asking at that moment. They’re just trying to make sure that the person is informed of their rights and the charges against them and setting bond conditions. So that’s the focus at that time.
There are plenty of judges out there who will take a guilty plea at the arraignment and then there is no opportunity to negotiate with the prosecutor to try and reduce charges, it’s only sentencing that is left at that point in time. So I highly recommend anybody to not plead guilty at the arraignment, because the not guilty plea is kind of a legal pause button to stop the case at that time to at least enable someone to represent them who can negotiate with the prosecutor and try to get the charges reduced or dismissed. And that option is off the table if they’ve already pled guilty.
The only option then would be to try and get the judge to allow a withdrawal of that plea. There are many different pleas to reduce charges that may happen down the road, and to different types of offenses or civil infractions. So ultimately, you don’t have to necessarily plead guilty or not guilty to a specific charge of operating while intoxicated when something might be worked out that’s a very different type of charge down the road.
So there are so many different things that people have been able to accept responsibility for or plead guilty to when they were originally charged with some type of operating while intoxicated offense, so there’s many, many different things that they might plead to. And also if things are dismissed then they will not have to end up pleading to anything in that situation.
No contest pleas are available if there is either some kind of accident where somebody is afraid that they might be sued civilly for damages, or in a case where they just do not remember absolutely anything about the facts of the case and really can’t give a judge the factual basis necessary to, for the judge to be able to accept a guilty plea.
Operating while visibly impaired is a lesser drunk-driving charge than operating while intoxicated. Although an OWVI conviction carries stiff penalties, they are not as severe as the penalties associated with an OWI conviction. One of the biggest benefits an OWVI has over an OWI conviction is its impact on your driver’s license.
If convicted of a first-offense OWI, your license will be suspended for 30 days, followed by 150 days of license restrictions. The first 30 days of suspension are referred to as a “hard” suspension. This means that you cannot drive anywhere, for any reason—period.
A first-offense OWVI conviction, on the other hand, will result in 90 days of license restrictions with no hard suspension.
If you have been charged with OWI, it is imperative that you consult an experienced defense attorney who is skilled in negotiating with prosecutors. If your attorney is able to plea bargain the charge down to OWVI, the license implications alone could mean the difference between losing or retaining your job.
Depending on the details of your case, a skilled attorney may even be able to have the charge reduced to a traffic violation such as reckless or careless driving, and in certain cases, an attorney may be able to have the charge dismissed altogether.