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).
I 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.