Drunk & Drugged Driving

Drunk & Drugged Driving

Betsy consults with a client

OWI / DUI arrests are common, but they’re far from inconsequential. There are potentially severe consequences associated with a drunk driving charge, even if you have an otherwise clean record. In some cases, drivers who are found to be impaired by drugs or alcohol may face revocation of their license, high fines, and jail time, even if it’s their first offense. An experienced Michigan drunk driving lawyer is critical to not only keeping you out of jail, but also protecting your future.

The experienced defense lawyers at Mas/Stig-Nielsen know what you’re up against and know how to mount a compelling defense to the charges. We have successfully handled motions to suppress, earned favorable plea reductions, and won jury trials on behalf of clients who have been charged with operating while intoxicated. In all scenarios, we can offer you strategies to achieve the best possible outcome under your specific circumstances.

Michigan Drunk Driving Laws

According to the state’s annual Drunk Driving Audit report, 30,626 people were arrested in Michigan in 2019 for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The prevalence of drunk driving has resulted in strict laws- for example, Michigan classifies it as both a traffic offense and criminal offense, so it remains on your driving record. This is one of the reasons why you should face such charges with help from a criminal law attorney.

Drunk Driving / DUI Defined

The Michigan Vehicle Code states you can be charged with drunk driving if you're suspected of operating a motorized vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. If you’re under 21, the threshold is even lower- you can be charged with DUI if your BAC is as low as 0.02%.

It is important to note that in Michigan, you can also be penalized for driving with any amount of active THC in your blood, so if you’re pulled over and charged, a marijuana DUI lawyer can help.

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) Defined

 Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) is the most common offense associated with drunk driving. Although considered a misdemeanor, in certain cases it can be charged as a felony. Having the right OWI lawyer can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case.

Michigan OWI DUI Offenses And Penalties

Below is an overview of the potential penalties you face for an OWI DUI conviction.

  • First Offense OWI: Penalties can include jail time of up to 93 days, fines of up to $500, up to 360 hours of community service, vehicle immobilization, and even possibly having an ignition interlock device installed during probation.
  • Second Offense OWI: A second offense can send you to jail for up to one year depending upon the circumstances. There is also a minimum fine of up to $1,000, up to 90 days of community service, and the possibility of an ignition interlock device during probation.
  • Third Offense OWI: On a third offense, OWI becomes a felony and carries a prison sentence of one to five years, as well as a fine of up to $5000. A probation period of up to one year and a community service period of 60 to 180 days are also included, along with mandatory vehicle immobilization and the possibility of an ignition interlock device during probation.
  • Super Drunk OWI: You may face this charge if you register a BAC of 0.17 or higher. Penalties include up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $700, a 45-day driver’s license suspension, installation of an ignition interlock device for 320 days, and potentially a court order to attend alcohol treatment for at least a year.
  • OWI Causing Death: Potential prison time for this offense is 15 years, and fines range from $2,500 to $10,000. You will also be required to immobilize your vehicle. A prison sentence of up to 20 years may be imposed if a law enforcement official or firefighter is killed.

Which is Worse- OWI or DUI?

In Michigan, OWI and DUI are essentially interchangeable terms for operating a motor vehicle under one or more of the following conditions:

  • A blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more
  • The presence of any controlled substance in the body
  • Under the influence of any intoxicating alcohol
  • Under the influence of any controlled or intoxicating substance

Operating while visibly impaired is a less serious offense that may apply if the police believe you show visible signs of impairment. An experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer will explain the charges in your case and fight to prevent a mistake from impacting the rest of your life.

How Many Points is an OWI in Michigan?

The Michigan Vehicle Code determines the number of points you get for each traffic violation or crime. Minor crimes are usually worth two points, while serious crimes are worth up to six points. (Michigan uses a 12-point system.)

If you are convicted of OWI, it can cost you six points on your driver’s license. Points placed on your driving record remain there for two years following your conviction. The only way to avoid driver's license points and the consequences of accumulating too many is to not accrue any, so if you are charged with OWI, you should hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to fight it.

What If I've Been Arrested For Drunk Driving Before?

Michigan’s drunk driving laws are especially tough on repeat offenders. The penalties associated with OWI DUI increase with every subsequent conviction, resulting in longer jail terms and higher fines. For example, a first offender faces up to 93 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, and up to 360 hours of community service. If you are convicted a second time, the penalties increase to up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and up to 90 days of community service.

An experienced OWI attorney can ensure your legal rights are protected and fight to minimize penalties. It is especially important if you have prior convictions for OWI.

How Can Your Firm Help My OWI DUI Case?

The OWI lawyers at Mas/Stig-Nielsen have years of experience protecting the rights of clients in DUI cases, and there are many ways that we can weaken the case against you and bring about a more favorable outcome. They include:

  • Challenging the reasons for stopping you
  • Questioning the way the police officer administered the Standardized Field Sobriety Test Battery
  • Contesting the scientific validity of the blood or breath test at the heart of the prosecution’s case

Using these tactics, we are sometimes able to negotiate a plea reduction of reckless driving, for example. We will always explain your options and make sure you understand them.

Get Immediate Help from an Experienced OWI DUI Lawyer

A criminal record can restrict a person’s ability to obtain employment, pursue advanced education, and access public benefits. For these reasons alone, you should always consult a criminal defense attorney if you are charged with OWI DUI. Oftentimes, people plead guilty without legal advice to "get it over with" but only later find out about the serious consequences of a criminal record.

If you’ve been charged with OWI DUI in the counties of Grand Traverse, Benzie, Manistee, and Wexford, Mas/Stig-Nielsen can present a strong and confident defense. We will explore every option to get the charges dismissed but should that not be possible, we will use our experience and resources to help ensure the best outcome. To schedule a consultation, call (231) 714-4128 or contact us online.


420 E. Front Street
Suite C
Traverse City, MI   49686
Phone: (231) 714-4128
Fax: (231) 312-6066


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