Drunk Driving in Michigan

Drunk driving (aka OWI) offenses are some of the most common charges brought in the State of Michigan. These charges range from simple misdemeanors resulting in a short term of probation to felony charges that include prison time. The facts of your individual scenario and your driving record can be instrumental in determining the outcome of your case. Some of the factors that courts and prosecutors will consider include: your BAC (blood alcohol level), did your intoxication contribute to a accident, was anyone injured, whether this is your first drug/alcohol related incident, and whether you were impaired by an illegal substance.

OWI charges can also have serious ramifications on your driver’s license, cause you to pay driver responsibility fees, as well as result in significant court costs and fines. Below are some of the more common driving related offenses.

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These are the most common drinking and driving offenses. While the technical legal differences between the two are slight, the real world ramifications between OWI and OWVI are very real. Operating While Intoxicated means that you are driving your vehicle and you have a BAC of over 0.08. Operating While Visibly Impaired has nothing to do with your BAC, rather the charge is based on how the substance in question is effecting your ability to operate a vehicle. The first offense for either crime is a 93 day misdemeanor. The second offense for either crime is a 1 year misdemeanor, with a requirement that you spend no less than 5 days in jail. Punishment for first and second offenses are also accompanied by community service requirements as well as costs and fees that The third offense for either crime is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, with a requirement that you serve a minimum of 30 days in jail. The third offense for either crime is a felony, requiring you to serve a minimum of no less than 30 days to 1 year, and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

While the criminal punishments for these drunk driving offenses appear similar, the license sanctions differ tremendously.

Your first OWI conviction means that you will have to pay driver responsibility fees to the Secretary of State of $1,000 for two years, your license will be suspended for 30 days, and you will earn 6 points on your driving record. Your first OWVI conviction carries fees of only $500 per year, a 90 restricted license, and only 4 points will go on your driving record.


Recently the Michigan Legislature passed a new law which seriously impacts this area of law. The new law states that if you are found to be operating a motor vehicle and your BAC is over.0.17 or higher, even thought it may be your first offense, you will face the same penalties as though it were your second offense. That means you will face between 5 days and 1 year in jail, immediate revocation of your license for a minimum of 1 year, as well as increased fines and responsibility fees.

Child Endangerment

Michigan law has increased penalties if you are convicted of OWI or OWVI and there is a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle with you. Regardless of whether or not it is your first conviction, you face no less than 5 days and no more than 1 year in jail. A second offense is a felony carrying up to 5 years in prison.

Drunk driving cases (Operating While Intoxicated) are a very specialized area of criminal law. Even if this is your first offense, OWI cases are especially serious because of the many possible ramifications that can be the result of a conviction. Not only can a conviction result in the threat of jail time, it can also have a severe impact on your driver’s license, create problems for your employment and force you to face the awkward social stigma associated with these crimes. Because of the serious consequences associated with a drunk driving conviction, it is essential to contact aggressive criminal defense attorneys in Michigan who have the necessary experience to gain the best result possible for you and your individual case.

Our Approach To OWI & OWVI Charges

Chris Kessel has over a decade of experience dealing with Operating While Intoxicated and other drinking and driving related charges. When a client retains Chris Kessel he immediately begin to develop a comprehensive strategy for success. That’s what makes him one of Michigan’s top criminal attorney. Sometimes success means convincing the prosecutor to dismiss the charges completely, or have them greatly reduced. Other times it means a motion to suppress evidence to have the case dismissed by a judge, or fully preparing for trial and securing a not guilty verdict.

Drinking and driving offenses often turn on the testimony of a police officer. This means that you need an attorney who is skilled in the art of cross examination, who can force an officer to explain why their testimony may not match their police report, or why there is no video of a incident when there were cameras present during an arrest. Anyone can cross-examine a witness, but it takes a top attorney like Chris Kessel to force a jury to see when a witness cannot be believed.

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