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Michigan DUI Charges & Law Explained



Michigan’s driving under the influence offenses are referred to as “OWI” (Operating While Intoxicated) and “OWVI” (Operating While Visibly Intoxicated/Impaired).  OWVI is a lesser-included offense of OWI. As such, it is possible that a person charged and found not guilty of OWI may still be found guilty and punished for the offense of OWVI.

OPERATING WHILE INTOXICATED (OWI): In the state of Michigan, it is illegal to operate a vehicle upon a highway or public road while intoxicated.  Michigan law defines operating while intoxicated as operating while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance. Under MI’s per se DUI law, when a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher, their chemical test result may be used as per se evidence of impairment.

OPERATING WHILE VISABLY IMPAIRED (OWVI):  It is illegal to operate a vehicle when a person’s ability to operate is visablly impaired.  Persons arrested for DUI who do not submit to a chemical test will most likely be charged with OWVI.  In OWVI cases, the prosecution bears the burden of proving visable impairment beyond a reasonable doubt without a chemical test result.  Instead, the defendant’s driving pattern and physical characteristics are used to prove intoxication.

OPERATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF SCHEDULE 1 CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES/COCAINE:  It is illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of a schedule 1 controlled substance or cocaine as specified in MI’s DUI statutes.

ALLOWING A PERSON TO OPERATE WHILE INTOXICATED:  In Michigan, allowing a person to drive while they are intoxicated is a misdemeanor offense.  The owner of a vehicle or a person in charge or in control of a vehicle may not allow another to operate it while they are intoxicated.

UNDER 21:  Minors under the age of 21 will be charged with DUI if a chemical test result reveals a BAC of .02 or higher, or if a presence of alcohol is detected in an amount is higher than what is commonly accepted at religious ceremonies.

COMMERCIAL VEHICLES:  Drivers of commercial vehicles are considered legally drunk when their BAC is .04 or higher.

DUI SERIOUS BODILY INJURY:  DUI defendants who cause an accident resulting in a serious impairment of a body function of another person will be charged with a felony offense with harsher penalties.

DUI WITH A MINOR IN VEHICLE: A DUI defendant who was arrested with a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle will be guilty of a separate misdemeanor offense, which carries additional penalties.