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Your Ann Arbor OWI Case: The Basics

Last updated: November 11, 2013

It's "Football Saturday" in Tree Town. That means football, hot wings, and a lot of beer. You've been out drinking all day on Main Street, but now it's time to go home and sleep it off. Luckily, your best friend drove. He seems sober enough to drive and it's only a few miles to home. You get in the passenger seat and trek back to your U-M dorm room. Suddenly, you look over and your friend is dozing off at the wheel. You reach over to wake him up, but you're too late. He plows right into a fire hydrant. 

Next thing you know, Ann Arbor Police is there and making your buddy take some field sobriety tests. The results aren't good and they are hauling him off to jail. He begs and pleads for you to bail him out.

What's going to happen next? Read this article to learn more about Ann Arbor OWIs.

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

If you've been arrested, you will likely be taken to the Washtenaw County Jail for a blood or breath test. You might be released the next day with a promise to appear for arraignment. But if you are charged with a felony, you'll likely stay in jail until your arraignment.

What Happens at an Arraignment?

This will be your first appearance in court, whether it's a misdemeanor or a felony. It'll happen at the Washtenaw 14A District Court. The judge will inform you of the charges and set bail. She may impose additional conditions such as alcohol testing. You will enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. You can hire a lawyer, represent yourself, or ask for a public defender. Finally, the judge will set a pretrial conference.

Pretrial Conference: Misdemeanor/ Felony

Pretrial conferences are where the plea negotiations take place. In a misdemeanor, it'll happen after the arraignment, but before trial. In a felony, they happen before the preliminary hearing.

Preliminary Hearing (Felony Only)

You have a right to a preliminary hearing within 14 days of your arraignment, unless you waive that right. This isn't the trial. It's a hearing where the prosecutor needs to show there's probable cause to believe you committed a felony. The prosecutor will call witnesses to testify under oath. Your attorney can cross-examine them. If the judge binds you over for trial, new dates will be set for the superior court arraignment and trial.

Trial: Your Day in Court

You've rejected the offer (if any) and want to go to trial. The State must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You have the right to a jury trial where 12 randomly selected members of the community decide your guilt or innocence.

Sentences

If the jury finds you guilty, the judge will impose a sentence in your case ranging from a small fine, to probation, to alcohol/drug counseling, and in the most serious cases, an active prison sentence. See below to learn more.

Charges: Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) vs. Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI)

Michigan has two separate charges for drivers who are impaired by drugs or alcohol. Both charges refer to operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Here's the difference. In order to be charged with OWI, you must have a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08% or more. There is no BAC requirement for the charge of OWVI.

Possible Penalties

Every case is different depending on the facts and circumstances. However, here are some standard penalties for most alcohol or drug-related driving crimes in Michigan.

First Michigan OUI

  • Jail up to 93 days
  • Fine: $100 - $500 + $1,000 Drivers Responsibility Fee
  • Driver's License Suspension: 180 days
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Installation may be ordered during probation
  • Community Service: 360 hours
  • 6 points on driver's license

Second Michigan OWI

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Fine: $200 - $1000+ $1000 annual Drivers Responsibility Fee for 2 years
  • Driver's License Revocation for one year
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Installation may be ordered during probation
  • Possible Vehicle Seizure: If vehicle is not taken at the time of the arrest, you will lose use of it for 90-180 days
  • Community Service: 30 - 90 days
  • 6 Points on driver's license

First Michigan OWVI

  • Jail up to 93 days
  • Fine: $300 + $500 Drivers Responsibility Fee
  • Driving Privilege Restricted for 90 days
  • Community Service: 360 hours
  • 4 Points on driver's license

Second Michigan OWVI

  • Jail up to one year
  • Fine: $200 - $1,000 + $500 annual Drivers Responsibility Fee for 2 years
  • Driver's License Revocation for one year
  • Possible Vehicle Seizure: If vehicle is not taken at the time of the arrest, you will lose use of it for 90-180 days
  • Community Service: 30 - 90 days
  • 4 Points on driver's license

Under Age 21 Operating with Any Alcohol Content

If you are under 21, Michigan has zero tolerance for drinking and driving. You'll be charged if you have any presence of alcohol in your system.

Felonies

Keep in mind, you will almost certainly face felony charges if you are drunk driving and do any of the following:

  • Are convicted of 3 DUIs in your lifetime;
  • Cause serious injury or death;
  • Have a prior felony DUI on your record.

Implied Consent and Your License

If you are arrested for an alcohol or drug-related DUI, you are required to take a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) or the presence of drugs in your body. Michigan has an implied consent law.

Refusing to take this test has driver's license consequences that are separate from those that result from any conviction that flows from the traffic stop, including:

  • Six points on your driving record.
  • Your license will be suspended for one year if it is the first time you refused to take the test under the Implied Consent law.
  • Your license will be suspended for two years if you refused to take the test one or more times within the last 7 years.

If you refuse to take the test, or if the test shows that your BAC is 0.08 or higher, the cop will take your driver's license and issue you a paper permit. You may drive on the paper permit until your criminal case is resolved in court.

Remember, when you drink and drive, you endanger your life, and the lives of your passengers and others on the road. Each year, thousands of people are killed because someone drove while intoxicated or impaired after consuming alcohol or other chemical substances.