OWI Laws in Michigan

Learn some important facts about Michigan OWI law.

In Michigan, you can get an OWI (operating while intoxicated), sometimes called a DUI (driving under the influence), if you drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of.08% or higher or any amount of a “controlled substance” in your system, regardless of whether your driving ability was actually impaired. While Michigan law says that marijuana is a controlled substance, the “zero tolerance” rule doesn’t apply for drivers that are lawfully allowed to use marijuana under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

However, you can also get an OWI in Michigan for operating a vehicle while “under the influence” of alcohol, drugs (including marijuana), or a combination of the two. You’re under the influence if your ability to drive is “substantially and materially affected” by the alcohol or drugs you’ve ingested.

Even if you aren’t quite under the influence, you can still be convicted of a less serious offense called an OWVI (operating while visibly impaired) if—as the result of the substances you’ve ingested—it would be apparent to an observer that you have “less ability than would an ordinary, careful and prudent driver.”  

And the law in Michigan says that if you’re driving a vehicle, you’ve given consent to submit to a chemical test for the purpose of determining the amount of alcohol or drugs in your blood. Here are some details on the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test in Michigan and other details about Michigan OWI/DUI law.

In Michigan, what are the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test (usually a breathalyzer or blood test) when suspected of OWI?

Here are the consequences for not taking a breathalyzer or blood test in Michigan, broken out by whether this is your first, second, or third offense:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

1-year license suspension

2-year license suspension

2-year license suspension


In Michigan, when do police have to measure your BAC?

Michigan law doesn’t required police to measure your BAC within any particular time of when you were driving. But to prove an OWI based on a BAC of .08% or more, the prosecutor must show your BAC was over the legal limit at the time you were driving. Depending on the circumstances, the prosecution might have more difficulty proving its case where there’s a long delay between when you were driving and when police measured your BAC.

What is the maximum BAC for drivers under 21 in Michigan?

In Michigan, it’s illegal for a driver that’s under the age of 21 to operate a vehicle with “any bodily alcohol content.” Generally, this law prohibits underage drivers from driving with any amount of alcohol in their blood. However, there’s one exception to the rule: Underage drivers can drive with a small amount of alcohol in their bodies—less than .02%—if they consumed the alcohol as part of a “generally recognized religious service or ceremony.”

What are the minimum jail times for an OWI in Michigan?

Here are the minimum jail times for an OWI in Michigan, broken out by whether this is your first, second, or third offense:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

No minimum jail term required

5 days jail or 30 days community service

30 days jail


How long will prior OWI/DUI convictions remain relevant for sentencing purposes in Michigan?

If you have only one prior OWI/DUI, it will stay on your record for seven years for purposes of enhancing your sentence on a second OWI. If, however, you have two or more prior OWI/DUI convictions, they will stay on your record forever (for sentencing purposes on a subsequent OWI).

Can an OWI be “pleaded down” to a "wet reckless" in Michigan?

In some states a defendant might receive a "wet reckless," or a conviction of reckless driving involving alcohol, as the result of a plea bargain in which an OWI/DUI charge is reduced to reckless driving. There’s no law in Michigan that prohibits plea bargains in OWI cases—so, depending on the circumstances of your case, it might be possible for a lawyer to plead down your OWI to a reckless driving charge.

(Read more about reckless driving and the penalties for a conviction.) 

Are ignition interlock devices (IIDs) required for convicted OWI offenders in Michigan?

The judge can order an IID as a condition of probation for anyone convicted of an OWI (including those convicted of first offenses). Drivers convicted of an OWI with a BAC of .17% or more (often called a “super drunk” OWI) and those with second or subsequent OWIs, must install an IID to get and drive with a restricted license.

Where can I get more information about OWI laws in Michigan?

Nolo's DUI/DWI topic has many helpful articles, including a Drunk Driving, DUI, and DWI FAQ. For more help after a DUI arrest, see Nolo's Lawyer Directory, where you can view in-depth profiles of Michigan OWI attorneys in your area.

For more information about the legal limit, see the Blood Alcohol Level Chart

Last updated on 3/14/2016.

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