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What To Do If You’ve Been Charged With An OWI

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Criminal charges for OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) can be frightening, frustrating, and confusing, especially if it’s your first time dealing with the criminal justice system. If you’re asking yourself what to do if you’ve been charged with an OWI, and how to ensure that you get the legal advice that you need, you’ve come to the right place.

Michigan OWI charges are serious and carry the possibility of severe penalties. Penalties for a first-time OWI conviction include:

  • Suspension of your driver’s license for up to 6 months
  • Fines of $100 to $500
  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Vehicle immobilization
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device, and
  • Mandatory completion of an alcohol treatment program.

But there is hope.

If you have been charged with a Michigan OWI, remember that you are innocent until proven guilty, and that being charged with a crime is very different from being convicted. Work with an experienced Michigan OWI defense lawyer to give yourself the best chance at avoiding some of the most serious penalties for an OWI conviction, and possibly beating the charge altogether.

Michigan OWI Charges for Alcohol, Marijuana, or Other Drugs

In Michigan, you can be charged with OWI for being under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or other intoxicating substances.

While OWI charges are most common for driving under the influence of alcohol, you can be charged with OWI if you are under the influence of marijuana, recreational drugs, or prescription medications.

The Preliminary Breath Test

If you were stopped by a Michigan law enforcement officer who suspected that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you were asked to submit to a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). The PBT is used to assess whether you are under the influence of alcohol. It does not test for the presence of other intoxicating drugs.

If you refused the PBT you face an additional civil infraction that carries a fine of $150, plus court costs.

Regardless of whether you took the PBT, if the officer believed you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you were taken into custody and asked to take an evidentiary test. Submitting to the test is required under Michigan’s implied consent law.

Implied Consent to Drug and Alcohol Testing

After you were arrested for OWI you were asked to take a chemical test to determine your Bodily Alcohol Content (BAC) or the presence of other intoxicating drugs. The test results will be used by the prosecutor to establish that you were intoxicated.

If you refused to take the BAC test you are subject to additional consequences that can include:

  • Six points on your driving record
  • One-year license suspension

If you refused the chemical test, you received a form called “Officer’s Report of Refusal to Submit to Chemical Test.” The form explains that, within 14 days of arrest, you must request a hearing with the Secretary of State to contest your license suspension for refusing to take the BAC test. If you do not request a hearing, you forfeit the right to contest your license suspension for refusing to take the test and your license will be suspended for one year. This suspension is in addition to any penalties imposed due to the OWI.

Your Temporary Driving Permit

At the time of your arrest, the police officer confiscated and destroyed your driver’s license. You received a temporary driving permit (known as a section 625 G permit), and information about your arrest was entered in your driving record with the Secretary of State. The temporary driving permit is a full license and does not restrict, in any further way, your driving privileges.

Your First Court Appearance

When you were released from police custody you were given a court date for your arraignment. This is the beginning of the court process when you enter a plea.

You should hire an attorney as soon as possible after being released from police custody, and before your initial court appearance.

If you plan to contest the OWI charge (which you should!), your attorney will enter a plea of Not Guilty, and your case will be scheduled for a pre-trial and, ultimately, trial.

At trial, your OWI defense attorney will be able to challenge the police officer’s reason for stopping you, show that you were not driving while under the influence, or challenge the prosecution’s case on other, more technical grounds.

Penalties for a Michigan OWI Conviction

Conviction for a first-time Michigan OVI carries serious penalties, including:

  • Suspension of your driver’s license for up to 6 months
  • Fines of $100 to $500
  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Vehicle immobilization
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device, and
  • Mandatory completion of an alcohol treatment program.

License Suspension After an OWI Conviction

If you are convicted of an OVI in Michigan, your driver’s license will be suspended. For a first-time conviction, your driver’s license will be suspended for up to 6 months. You must wait 30 days before you are eligible to request a restricted license.

With a restricted license, you are allowed to drive to and from:

  • Work
  • School
  • Probation
  • Court appearances
  • Alcohol and substance treatment appointments, and
  • Regular medical appointments for you or a close family member

Receiving a restricted driver’s license after an OWI conviction is not automatic. You need to apply to the Secretary of State’s office for a restricted license and demonstrate that you are eligible. In some circumstances, the Secretary of State will require that you complete at least part of your suspension before you can get a restricted license.

Contact a Michigan OWI Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with an OWI in Michigan, contact an experienced OWI defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can advise you on how to minimize the consequences of an OWI charge and defend you in court.

OWI defense is complicated and you need a lawyer who understands Michigan OWI laws, the complex science behind drug and alcohol testing, and how drugs and alcohol are processed in the body.

A Michigan OWI defense attorney can analyze your case and whether the police officer had probable cause to stop you and charge you with OWI. An experienced OWI defense attorney can also challenge the evidence against you, and try to negotiate a favorable plea, have the case against you dismissed, or represent you at trial.

If you have been charged with OWI in Michigan, contact Elmen Legal today for aggressive criminal defense.

Categories: Drunk Driving / OWI

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Admitted to practice law in 2014, Ann Arbor criminal defense attorney Robert Elmen defends people accused of crimes such as assault and battery, domestic violence, sex crimes, drug crimes, and drunk driving / OWI / DUI. His caring approach towards his clients sets him apart from other lawyers as he recognizes that people come to him during their darkest hours, looking for help, and for hope. Robert is a student of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and draws on his martial arts training to help himself and his clients remain calm in the face of what may seem like insurmountable odds.

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