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OWVI Charges in Michigan

Most people are familiar with the .08 BAC threshold for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) in Michigan. However, many people do not realize that you can still be charged with an impaired driving violation known as OWVI even if your blood alcohol content was below .08. And, if the prosecutor can prove that your ability to operate was substantially lessened, you could even be found guilty of the more serious intoxicated driving charge.

Operating While Visibly Impaired

Michigan law distinguishes between intoxicated driving and impaired driving. Generally, a driver is considered intoxicated if he or she has a BAC that is over the legal limit. On the other hand, you may be considered “impaired” if your ability to safely operate the vehicle is less than that of a normal, everyday driver.

The official charge for impaired driving is operating while visibly impaired, or OWVI. It is referred to as “visibly impaired” because the impairment should be noticeable to a normal, everyday person, which is a rather subjective standard.

In Michigan, the charge for intoxicated driving with a BAC less than .08% is called Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI). This charge essentially is a lesser OWI offense and is sometimes used for plea bargaining purposes.

The standard of proof for “visibly impaired” is lower than the standard for “under the influence.” In an OWVI case, the prosecution must show that the defendant’s ability to operate the vehicle was less than that of a careful driver due to the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. This reduced ability to operate a vehicle safely must have been visible to an ordinary, observant person.

Penalties for OWVI Conviction

If convicted of Operating While Visibly Impaired, you could face the following punishments:

  • Fine of up to $300
  • Jail sentence of up to 93 days
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Restriction of your driver’s license for up to 90 days, or 180 days if you were impaired by a controlled substance
  • Four points against your driving record
  • $500 Driver Responsibility Fee for two years