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This Is My First DWI. What Should I Expect?

Daniel J. Larin, P.C. Oct. 3, 2023

Drunk driving charges can lead to many life-altering penalties and ramifications, even when it is your first DWI or, as the Michigan law refers to it, OWI. Understanding what happens next after your arrest is critical in order to prevent or mitigate the potential consequences of the charges.  

If this is your first OWI, our attorney at Daniel J. Larin, P.C. can walk you through the process to ensure that you know what to expect and how to navigate the criminal justice system. From our office in Birmingham, Michigan, we provide DWI/OWI defense services to people in the surrounding area, including Rochester Hills as well as the counties of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne.  

DUI Charges in Michigan

Criminal charges for drunk driving are harshly prosecuted in Michigan. In fact, the state ranks in the top 10 states in terms of the number of DUI arrests, according to statistics provided by the American Addiction Centers.  

Michigan law prohibits operating a motor vehicle in public while under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating substance. Most other states refer to this criminal offense as either driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI), but the state of Michigan uses another term: operating while intoxicated (OWI).  

In Michigan, you can be charged with OWI even if the police did not see you driving. You can be arrested for DWI just by having control of the vehicle in a public place. For example, if you are sitting in the driver’s seat of your vehicle with keys in the ignition, you can be deemed in actual physical control of the vehicle, which may result in OWI charges if you are under the influence of an intoxicating substance.  

For drivers aged 21 and older, OWI charges apply if they are under the influence of an intoxicating substance or have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above .08%. Drivers under 21 can be charged with “underage OWI” if they have any amount of alcohol in their system.  

The Process You Will Go Through

Facing DUI/OWI charges for the first time is always a confusing and intimidating experience, mainly because you do not know what to expect. Here’s a breakdown of the process people facing drunk driving charges in Michigan have to go through:  

  1. Arrest. Every OWI case in Michigan begins with an arrest. After a driver who is suspected of drunk driving is arrested, law enforcement will ask them to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test at the police station. Like other states, Michigan adheres to an implied consent law, which means you cannot refuse to take a chemical test without facing a penalty, which is a one-year suspension of the driver’s license. In most cases, people arrested for OWI in Michigan are released from custody the next day with a citation for OWI and a temporary driving permit.  

  1. Arraignment. The next step in your case will be an arraignment, which is your first formal court date. At the arraignment, you will be informed of the offense you have been charged with. A judge or magistrate will also set a bond and determine which terms and conditions to impose. You will also be asked how you plead during the arraignment, which determines how your case will proceed.  You may want to have your attorney present at the arraignment to examine the facts of the case and identify potential problems in the prosecution’s evidence against you.  

  1. Pre-trial. If the defendant pleads not guilty, their case goes to trial. However, before the trial is held, the parties must attend a pre-trial conference, which is an opportunity for the parties – the prosecution and the defense – to discuss the case with the judge. It is also their last chance to work out a mutually acceptable deal to avoid going to trial.  

  1. Trial. Although OWI trials are not common, they do happen. In Michigan, a trial can be held before a jury or a judge without a jury. At the trial, the prosecution has to prove its case against the defendant, while the defense gets a chance to rebut the prosecutor’s case. At the end of the proceeding, the judge or jury will have to decide whether the prosecutor has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a “guilty” verdict. If not, the verdict will be “not guilty.”  

Our attorney at Daniel J. Larin, P.C. can walk you through every step of the criminal justice system. As one of Michigan’s leading lawyers for DUI/OWI defense, Daniel Larin will fight tirelessly to get the charges against you dismissed or, at the very least, minimize the penalties.  

Possible Penalties for First Offense

Even if it is your first time getting caught driving under the influence of alcohol in Michigan, you may still face serious penalties. The severity of punishment depends on your age and the blood alcohol content at the time of the offense. Adult drivers face the following penalties for a first-time OWI offense: 

  • a fine of up to $500 

  • jail time 

  • community service 

  • driver’s license suspension 

  • vehicle immobilization 

  • mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device 

  • six points added to the driving record 

Individuals under 21 who commit underage OWI in Michigan face a fine of up to $250, community service, restrictions on their driving privileges, and four points added to their driving record. In addition to administrative and criminal penalties, people convicted of OWI can also face some far-reaching collateral consequences such as the loss of employment, problems with finding a job, and increased auto insurance premiums, among others.  

Let’s Fight for Your Rights

A DUI/OWI conviction can affect your life in many different ways. Even if it is your first offense, you should take the charges seriously and consider hiring an attorney who will fight for your rights. Our attorney at Daniel J. Larin, P.C. offers personalized service and meticulous attention to detail to help clients dismiss their DUI/OWI charges or minimize the consequences of any convictions. Reach out now to schedule your free one-hour consultation.