Between 2003 and 2012, 2,912 people were killed in vehicle accidents that involved drunk drivers in the state of Michigan.
Few people do not know just how dangerous it is to drive a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Unfortunately, this does not stop some people from driving while intoxicated.
In the state of Michigan, you may have heard both the term OWI and DUI used in reference to drunk drivers.
What’s the difference between a DUI versus OWI? Let’s take a look at what you need to know.
DUI Vs OWI: What’s the Difference?
DUI is probably the most common acronym for drunk driving. In the state of Michigan, however, you might hear this referred to as an OWI.
The acronym DUI stands for “driving under the influence.” You may have also heard the term DWI, which stands for “driving while intoxicated.” It is also used to represent the phrase “driving while impaired.”
The acronym OWI stands for “operating while intoxicated.” While these might sound like they are different acronyms to describe the exact same situation, there are a number of legitimate reasons why the term OWI is used in the state of Michigan rather than DUI or DWI.
How Is OWI Defined In Michigan?
OWI is the legal term that is used under Michigan law. In the state of Michigan, the definition of an OWI is when an individual is operating a vehicle:
- With any amount of a controlled substance in their body
- With a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08% or greater
- While under the influence of any intoxicating or controlled substance
- While under the influence of any intoxicating liquor
Before 1999, the acronym for drunk driving was both OUIL and OBAL in the state of Michigan. OUIL stood for “operating under the influence of liquor” and UBAL stood for “unlawful bodily alcohol level.”
These terms were changed in favor of the term OWI due to pressure from state prosecutors. They preferred that only one term be used so that both of these theories could be prosecuted and convicted.
The legal limit was dropped in Michigan in 2003 from .10 to .08. They also removed the presumption of individuals not being under the influence. This means that people are now able to be convicted of the OWI even if their breathalyzer test results in below .07.
The term OUI does not just refer to drinking alcohol. People can also be charged with an OWI for being under the influence of other drugs such as Xanax or Ambien. A conviction requires the prosecution to prove that a person’s ability to drive has been “substantially lessened.”
There is also a lesser offense in the state of Michigan known as an OWVI. This stands for “operating while visibly impaired.”
What’s the Difference Between Driving and Operating?
To most people, operating and driving a vehicle means the same thing. Under Michigan law, the difference is subtle yet important.
According to Michigan law, the term “driving” means that an individual is in literal physical control of a moving vehicle. On the other hand, you are considered to be operating a vehicle even if the car is not moving. This means that sitting in a car on the side of the road or even sleep in your car is considered vehicle operation.
In the past, cases could be dismissed if someone was found intoxicated while asleep, in a parked car, at an intersection, or otherwise not actually moving in the vehicle. Since the term has been changed to operating rather than driving, cases cannot be dismissed for this reason.
What Is the Punishment For an OWI in Michigan?
To be convicted of an OWI in Michigan can seriously impact your life.
Forr a first offense of an OWI, people can be defined between $100 and $500, spend up to 93 days in jail, be required to perform 45 days of community service, their vehicle can be immobilized, and they might have to have an ignition interlock device during a probation period.
For a second OWI offense, the minimum fine is $200 and the maximum fine is up to $1000. You jail time for this offense is typically between five days and one year, but most people get between 15 and 60 days. You can also be required to do between 30 and 90 days of community service and you might have an ignition lock put on your car.
A third OWI offense is considered a felony. There is a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days an individual can face up to five years in prison. An individual will also likely be required to complete community service for between 60 and 180 days, their vehicle immobilized, and an ignition interlock device will be installed during their probation.
If you have been arrested for an OWI in Michigan, you will need a qualified Michigan criminal defense lawyer to help defend your case.
Hiring a Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help Your Case
Understanding the difference between a DUI vs OWI is crucial. With a DUI, the understanding is that you can only be charged if you are actively driving the vehicle. Since the state of Michigan uses the term OWI, this means that you can be arrested even if you are in a parked vehicle.
OWI’s are taken very seriously in the state of Michigan, even for a first offense. What this means is that you can face a harsh punishment if you are charged and convicted with an OWI. You should not expect prosecutors and judges to be lenient in these cases, as they take them very seriously.
Hiring a Michigan defense attorney can help you to avoid the most severe sentences. Without an attorney, you could end up paying steeper fines, spending more time in jail, doing more community service, and other consequences.
Are you looking for a Michigan criminal defense lawyer? If so, contact us today for a consultation.