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OWI Charges in Ypsilanti, Michigan

By Daniel T. Geherin

The State of Michigan addresses drunk driving charges as operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) rather than driving under the influence (DUI), but the legal ramifications are the same. Michigan takes a firm stance against driving while intoxicated, and if you’ve been charged, you need the skilled legal guidance of an experienced OWI defense attorney in Ypsilanti on your side. 

Over the Legal Limit

In Michigan, OWI applies when a motorist meets or exceeds the legal limit that most states employ of .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This is not the end of the matter. If the officer who stops you believes that your impairment is interfering with your ability to drive safely – even if you’re below the legal limit – they can slap you with an OWI charge. 

Gauging Impairment

Before an officer can arrest you for OWI or can detain you, they need to have probable cause. This involves having a reason to believe that you likely committed the crime of OWI. This generally comes down to gauging the degree to which you’re impaired, and for that, they turn to sobriety tests. 

Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests require drivers to engage in specific tests that can include physical performance tests on the side of the road. Such tests have taken a beating in terms of reliability, and factors like the attending officer’s level of experience giving the tests and interpreting the results are just a few of the concerns. 

Chemical Tests

There are also chemical sobriety tests, and one of the most common is the breathalyzer. This is a handheld device that the motorist breathes into in order to produce a BAC reading. If the reading hits .08, the driver can be charged with OWI. It’s very important to note that these tests are not foolproof, and many who are in the know cast serious doubt on their overall reliability, including:

●      The officer’s experience in conducting breathalyzer tests

●      The condition of the machine, including how well it’s maintained

●      How well the machine is calibrated

●      The machine’s overall level of reliability 

In fact, an important New York Times investigation found that the breathalyzers found in virtually every police station in America generate skewed results with alarming frequency, even though they’re marketed as precise to the third decimal place. To make things more complicated, governmental oversight tends to be lacking.    

Additional chemical tests include urine and blood tests, which come with problems of their own, including having issues related to proper storage, chain of custody, proper labeling, and beyond.

A First OWI Offense

OWI charges are traffic violations that require a court appearance, and a first offense comes with all the following potential penalties and fines:

●      While jail sentences are often avoided, a conviction can carry jail time of up to 93 days or probation.

●      You’ll face fines of from $100 to $500. 

●      You may have to perform community service for up to 45 days. 

●      Your driver’s license may be suspended for up to 30 days, which can be followed by up to 150 days of restriction.

●      The court can order an ignition interlock device. 

A Second OWI Offense

Sentencing guidelines become harsher with a repeat offense. Consider the following:

●      A second OWI carries jail time of from 5 days to a year. The average sentence ranges from 15 to 60 days and can include probation. 

●      The attendant fines range from $200 to $1,000. 

●      There is a community service requirement that ranges from 30 to 90 days.

With a second OWI offense, you’ll face a one-year driver’s license suspension, but it gets worse. If the prior offense happened less than seven years earlier, which is called the lookback period, your license will be permanently revoked, and it will take a considerable amount of effort to get it back.  

A Third OWI Offense

Michigan legislature makes having a third OWI on your criminal record a felony, and the fines and penalties involved reflect this fact. Consider the following:

●      You’ll face a minimum of 30 days in jail that can range all the way up to 5 years in prison and may include probation.

●      You’ll face from 60 to 180 days of community service.

●      The lookback period is permanent, which means your license will be permanently revoked. 

Sometimes, the best resolution when OWI charges start racking up is striking a plea bargain with the state that reduces the charge or the penalties you face, and a practiced OWI defense attorney in Ypsilanti can help you with that.   

Charge Enhancements

There are certain situations that can enhance an OWI charge, including:

●      Injuring someone in the process

●      Having a minor in the car with you

●      Having a very high BAC reading

●      Driving without insurance

●      Having a controlled substance or a firearm on you

Enhanced charges lead to enhanced fines and penalties.   

The Social Consequences of a Conviction

The social consequences of an OWI conviction can also be harsh – and difficult to overcome. Criminal charges are a matter of public record, which means a conviction can affect all the following:

●      Your professional licensure

●      Your career

●      Your ability to get a job

●      Your ability to rent a house or take out a home loan

●      Your ability to take out a federal student loan and further your education

●      Your standing in the community

Considering Your Defense

Being charged with OWI is not the same thing as being guilty of OWI, and bringing a solid defense can mean the difference between effecting an advantageous outcome and failing to do so. Considerations to keep in mind in relation to your defense strategy include:

●      A savvy OWI attorney has the experience, legal insight, and drive to help you build a strong defense strategy that protects your rights and supports your best interests.

●      The prosecution needs enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and if they don’t have it, it supports your defense. 

●      Any evidence obtained in a manner that doesn’t comport with legal search and seizure practices can’t be used against you. 

●      The BAC reading the police used in your case may not be accurate, and effectively employing this line of defense can be highly beneficial. 

●      If the police arrested you, detained you, or interrogated you without reading you your rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, any evidence they gleaned from you at that time shouldn’t be used against you. 

An Experienced OWI Defense Attorney in Ypsilanti Is on Your Side

To us at Geherin Law Group, it’s personal. Personal justice, personal results, and personal attention. If you’re facing a criminal defense charge in Ypsilanti, please give us a call or email for a free consultation at (734) 263-2780 or We’ll listen to you, answer your questions, and discuss our firm’s track record of criminal defense success in Washtenaw County. Daniel T. Geherin is a OWI defense attorney serving Ypsilanti and the surrounding area with over 25 years of experience. Dan and his team are here to help you put together a plan of attack.