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OWI in Michigan - When is it a felony charge?

It is illegal in every state to operate a motorized vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher or to operate a motorized vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs if the driver is unable to do so safely. The state of Michigan generally uses the term operating while intoxicated, or OWI but the term driving under the influence or DUI may also be used.
Michigan's State Capitol in Lansing
If a driver refuses to submit to the chemical test but is considered visibly impaired they may be charged with operating while visibly impaired or OWVI, but the state will have to prove that they were “visibly impaired” beyond a reasonable doubt which will require significant evidence of impaired driving or other types of physical evidence. Recently on our forum a driver asked whether or not their DUI or OWI charge would be considered a misdemeanor or if they would be charged with a felony OWI. This blog will address when you may be charged with a felony OWI.

When is an OWI a felony charge in Michigan?

  Drivers are generally not charged with a felony OWI if it is their first OWI arrest. Drivers can, however, be charged an OWI felony under the following conditions:
  • It is the driver’s third OWI drinking and driving offense. The law changed in 2007 which required the third OWI charge to be within a 10 year look back period of the second conviction. Now, any driver arrested for a third OWI, regardless of their age or when the prior OWI offenses occurred, can be charged with a felony OWI.
  • The driver causes injury or property damage and they are transporting a child at the time of the accident.
  • The driver has a prior DUI offense within the prior seven years and they are arrested while transporting a minor under the age of 16.

OWI penalties for a felony charge in Michigan

  Drivers who are arrested for OWI should be concerned if the state is considering charging them with a felony. Felony charges can have a severe impact on your life. For instance, drivers may not be able to hold certain types of job or own firearms. They also may have difficulty having their driving record expunged. Other penalties a driver may face for an OWI felony charge includes:
  • One to five years in prison
  • Fines up to $5,000
  • 30 days to 1 year in jail with community service and probation for 60 days to 180 days
  • Possible installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Minimum driver’s license revocation of 5 years
  • Additional fees for driver responsibility penalties
  • Mandatory vehicle immobilization.

Hiring a drunk driving lawyer in Michigan

  If this is your third OWI, if you have caused injury or death or if you have committed any offense which has lead to a felony OWI charge, it is time to talk to a DUI lawyer. If the DUI lawyer may be able to help you get a reduced sentence (although some states have penalties that cannot be negotiated). Talk to a DUI lawyer and talk to them before you decide whether to plead guilty. An OWI lawyer and help you determine how a drunk driving conviction will affect your driving record and employment opportunities.
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