Michigan DUI Penalties in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties

This article will be about the penalties for the various OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) offenses in Michigan. We’re first going to look at this from a “real world” perspective, because it’s CRITICALLY IMPORTANT to understand that there is a huge difference between the potential penalties for a DUI on paper and how they’re actually handed down in court. This may help the reader understand what I mean: only a few years ago, before fireworks became legal in Michigan, the law provided a potential penalty of 90 days in jail for blowing off a single firecracker, roman candle, or bottle rocket. Despite that having been the actual written law, nobody EVER went to jail for fireworks. At worst, a person would be given a ticket and required to pay a fine. The point is that there is a difference – often huge – between how things read (in theory) and how they work (in practice).

howI point this out because it’s typical for someone charged with a drunk driving to hop on the computer, do a little research (remember, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”), see the potential legal penalties for their charge, and then start freaking out. My goal here is to explain away those completely misinformed fears. We will, of course, post the potential penalties provided by law, but I urge the reader to take them with the proverbial grain of salt and remember the difference between how they read on paper versus how they are imposed in court.

Let’s start with jail, because that’s everyone’s biggest fear. I concentrate my DUI practice specifically in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties, so what we’ll examine here applies to the Metro-Detroit, Tri-County area. No one goes to jail in a 1st offense DUI case, with the only possible exception being one Judge in Oakland County who often enough gives first-timers a few days in the cooler to think about things. In other words, although a 1st offense OWI is, technically speaking, punishable by up to 93 days in jail, there’s no point getting worked about something that’s NOT going to happen. I’m not going to go off on a tangent about “fear-based marketing,” but you should absolutely run away from lawyer or organization selling the idea that they’ll keep you out of jail in a 1st offense DUI. You’re not going, period.

In a 2nd offense DUI case, jail does become a possibility, although far from any kind of probability. Under Michigan’s Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) law, a 2nd offense case carries a maximum of 1 year in jail, but in those courts where a 2nd offender is given some “reflection time,” it’s measured in days, or weeks, at most; certainly not months. If someone from the other side of the state told me that they got 2 months for a second offense DUI, I’d freak out and be thankful I never venture into any courts outside of the Detroit-area. When you read the law and see “one year,” and unless you know better, you may freak out. Now you know better, so don’t freak out.

A 3rd offense, felony DUI usually involves having to do a little time. Note that I said “usually” because although the law mandates a 30-day minimum sentence for a 3rd offense conviction, in plenty of cases, the felony charge can be reduced to a 2nd offense misdemeanor, thereby avoiding any mandatory jail time. Not long ago, I handled 2 separate 3rd offense cases in the same week: one for a guy who had 4 priors and another for a guy who had 5 prior DUI convictions. The guy with 4 priors (making my case his 5th DUI overall) was in Oakland County, and I was able to limit his jail time to just 60 days, while I was able to get the guy with 5 priors (meaning I was handling his 6th DUI) a mere 30 days in Macomb County. Beyond bragging a bit, what I’m trying to make clear is that although a 3rd offense DUI carries a maximum of up to 5 years in prison, nobody (at least here, in Oakland, Macomb or Wayne County) gets that, or anything close to it.

I’ll get to the issue of money later. For now, with the jail stuff out of the way, let’s look at the possible (emphasis on possible) penalties for the various OWI (DUI) offenses as provided under Michigan law:

First Offense:

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Operating With Any Presence of a Schedule 1 Drug or Cocaine (OWPD)
• $100 to $500 fine and one or more of the following:
◦ Up to 93 days in jail.
◦ Up to 360 hours of community service.
• Driver’s license suspension for 30 days, followed by license restrictions for 150 days.
• Possible vehicle immobilization.
• Possible ignition interlock.
• Six points added to driving record.
• Driver Responsibility Fee:
◦ $1,000 for OWI.
◦ $500 for OWPD.

High Blood Alcohol Content (BAC of .17 or higher). This is one of the operating while intoxicated crimes, but it has harsher consequences.
• One or more of the following:
◦ Up to 180 days in jail.
◦ $200 to $700 fine.
◦ Up to 360 hours of community service.
• Driver’s license suspension for 1 year. Eligible for restrictions after 45 days of suspension if an ignition interlock device is installed on all vehicles the offender owns or intends to operate.
• Possible metal license plate confiscation if the offender operates a vehicle without a properly installed ignition interlock device.
• Mandatory vehicle immobilization if the offense is subsequently convicted for operating a vehicle without a properly installed ignition interlock device.
• 6 points added to the offender’s driving record.
• Driver Responsibility Fee of $1000.

Operating While Visibly Impaired
• Up to a $300 fine, and one or more of the following:
◦ Up to 93 days in jail.
◦ Up to 360 hours of community service.
• Driver’s license restrictions for 90 days (180 days if impaired by a controlled substance).
• Possible vehicle immobilization.
• 4 points added to the offender’s driving record.
• Driver Responsibility Fee of $500.

Second Offense within 7 Years (any combination):

Operating While Intoxicated
• $200 to $1000 fine, and one or more of the following:
◦ 5 days to 1 year in jail.
◦ 30 to 90 days of community service
• Driver’s license revocation and denial for a minimum of 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years).
• License plate confiscation.
• Vehicle immobilization for 90 to 180 days, unless the vehicle is forfeited.
• Possible vehicle forfeiture.
• 6 points added to the offender’s driving record.
• Driver Responsibility Fee of $1,000.

Operating While Visibly Impaired
• $200 to $1,000 fine, and one or more of the following:
◦ 5 days to 1 year in jail.
◦ 30 to 90 days of community service.
• Driver’s license revocation and denial for a minimum of 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years).
• License plate confiscation.
• Vehicle immobilization for 90 to 180 days unless the vehicle is forfeited.
• Possible vehicle forfeiture.
• 4 points added to the offender’s driving record.
• Driver Responsibility Fee of $500.

Third Offense Within Lifetime (any combination) is a Felony:

Operating While Intoxicated
• $500 to $5,000 fine, and either of the following:
◦ 1 to 5 years imprisonment
◦ Probation, with 30 days to 1 year in jail.
• 60 to 180 days community service.
• Driver’s license revocation and denial if there are 2 convictions within 7 years or 3 convictions within 10 years. The minimum period of revocation and denial is 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years).
• License plate confiscation.
• Vehicle immobilization for 1 to 3 years, unless the vehicle is forfeited.
• Possible vehicle forfeiture.
• Vehicle registration denial.
• 6 points added to the offender’s driving record.
• Driver Responsibility Fee of $1,000.

Operating While Visibly Impaired
• $500 to $5,000 fine, and either of the following:
◦ 1 to 5 years imprisonment
◦ Probation, with 30 days to 1 year in jail.
• 60 to 180 days community service.
• Driver’s license revocation and denial if there are 2 convictions within 7 years or 3 convictions within 10 years. The minimum period of revocation and denial is 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years).
• License plate confiscation.
• Vehicle immobilization for 1 to 3 years, unless the vehicle is forfeited.
• Possible vehicle forfeiture.
• Vehicle registration denial.
• 4 points added to the offender’s driving record.
• Driver Responsibility Fee of $500.

How much you’ll pay for a DUI, including fines and costs, depends on the court. None of the penalties listed above include court costs, which are usually about equal to the fine. Thus, in a 1st offense impaired driving, a person will usually get something like $300 in fines, $300 in costs, plus some various other mandatory fees, which can include probation costs, putting the out-the-door total somewhere between $700 on the low end and $1300 on the high end. Generally speaking, the price keeps going up as the severity of the offense goes up.

The driver’s license penalties are set in stone. Let me clarify this to head off any kind of “what about…?” or “How am I supposed to…?” questions: the driver’s license penalties above are automatic, set by law, and imposed by the Secretary of State. The court has nothing to do with them and cannot modify them in any way or for any reason. Period. This part of the written law is EXACTLY what is going to happen to you, and there are no exceptions or workarounds.

Community service is almost never given out in Macomb County, is about 50-50 in Wayne County, and almost always required in Oakland.

Things like vehicle immobilization and forfeiture fall squarely into the “it depends” category. That’s a nice way of saying they’re best discussed with your lawyer, as the ins and outs depend on a multitude of factors, not the least of which is where your case is pending. And that really circles back to the larger point I tried to make at the beginning: there are potential penalties written into the law, but many of them are not going to happen at all, or unlikely, at worst, and therefore when you try and figure out what you’re really “facing” in terms of a DUI charge, you can’t look to the statute itself for any realistic guidance.

While this may not clarify things, it should serve to lessen the readers anxiety, especially about going to jail. The maximum penalties spelled out in the law are much worse than any “worst case” scenario that ever takes place in a Detroit-area courtroom. I’m not suggesting that a DUI is anything other than a serious matter, but it’s far from the end of the world, and certainly nothing like it might seem when you read the penalties written into the law itself.

If you’re facing a DUI charge in Oakland, Macomb, or Wayne County and are looking to hire a lawyer, do your homework. Read around, then check around. All of my consultations are confidential and done over the phone, right when you call. You can reach my office Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 1-855-DUI-MICH (855-384-6424). We’re here to help.

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