Michigan DUI Attorneys

It’s been said that driving under the influence, although fraught with danger, is one of the least morally culpable crimes. That is, very few people who drive after drinking think that they pose a danger to themselves or anyone else. They think they’re fine to drive and they’ll get home safely. Many people don’t even realize that they’re over the legal limit. Unfortunately, most prosecutors are not so understanding. They take drunk driving very seriously. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

First, let’s run through a basic overview of drunk driving offenses in Michigan and the potential penalties.

Operating While Impaired

Everyone knows the magic number, the “legal limit” in Michigan—0.08. But did you know that you can be prosecuted for drunk driving even if you’re under that limit? This often comes as a shock to our clients. Under Michigan law, even if you’re blood alcohol content is less than 0.08, you can be still prosecuted for “operating while impaired.” All that means is that you drove with “less ability than would an ordinary careful driver.” The law also says that your ability to drive “must have been lessened to the point that it would have been noticed by another person.”

Here are the consequences of an operating while impaired conviction:

  • It’s a misdemeanor conviction on your record
  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Fines up to $300
  • Several hundred dollars in court costs
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • A restricted driving license for 90 days (meaning you can drive from home to work, probation programs, school, and the doctor’s office if you have a serious medical condition)
  • 4 points on your driver’s license

Operating While Intoxicated

This is the one we see most commonly. The prosecutor has to establish that you were at or above the legal limit of 0.08 or that because of drinking alcohol, your mental or physical condition was significantly affected and you were no longer able to operate your car in a normal manner.

Here are the consequences for operating while intoxicated:

  • It’s a misdemeanor conviction on your record
  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Fines up to $500
  • Several hundred dollars in court costs
  • A 30-day “hard” suspension on your driver’s license (no driving at all) followed by a 180-day restricted license
  • 6 points on your driver’s license

Operating with a High Blood Alcohol Content

Also known as “superdrunk,” the prosecutor needs to establish that your blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.17, which is more than twice the “legal limit” of 0.08. This provision was added in 2010, and it comes with harsher punishment.

Here are the consequences for operating with a high BAC:

  • It’s a misdemeanor conviction on your record
  • Up to 180 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Fines up to $700
  • Several hundred dollars in court costs
  • A 45-day hard suspension, followed by a restricted license for 1 year, during which time you must have an ignition interlock device installed on your car
  • 6 points on your driver’s license.

Operating While intoxicated – 2nd Offense

If you’ve previously been convicted of operating while impaired or operating while intoxicated and you’re arrested for another drunk driving offense within 7 years, you’ll likely be charged with operating while intoxicated, 2nd offense. As you can probably imagine, the potential punishments get a lot worse. The effect on your driver’s license is especially severe.

Here are the consequences for operating while intoxicated, 2nd offense:

  • It’s a misdemeanor conviction on your record
  • Up to 1 year in jail, with a mandatory minimum of 5 days in jail
  • Up to 90 days of community service
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Several hundred dollars in court costs
  • A 1-year revocation of your driver’s license, after which you’ll need to petition the Secretary of State to get your license back

Operating While Intoxicated – 3rd Offense

If you’ve previously been convicted of two drunk driving offenses and you’re arrested for a third one at any point in your lifetime, you’re looking at operating while intoxicated, 3rd offense. Generally speaking, this is the highest level operating while intoxicated offense in Michigan. The penalties are also the most severe.

Here are the consequences for operating while intoxicated, 3rd offense:

  • It’s a felony conviction on your record
  • 1-5 years in prison, or up to 5 years’ probation with 30 days to 1 year in jail and up to 180 days of community service
  • Fines up to $5,000
  • Several hundred dollars in court costs
  • A 1-5 year revocation of your driver’s license, after which you’ll need to petition the Secretary of State to get your license back
  • Vehicle forfeiture, or mandatory vehicle immobilization for 1-3 years if your vehicle is not forfeited

Operating Under the Influence of Drugs - Drugged Driving

What if you hadn’t been drinking but you’re being accused of driving while under the influence of drugs? The standards for operating while impaired and operating while intoxicated are the same. For operating while impaired, the prosecutor needs to show that the drugs caused you to drive with “less ability than would an ordinary careful driver,” which means your ability to drive “must have been lessened to the point that it would have been noticed by another person.” For operating while intoxicated, the prosecutor needs to show that because of any drugs in your system, your mental or physical condition was significantly affected and you were no longer able to operate your car in a normal manner. The penalties for operating while impaired by drugs and operating while intoxicated by drugs are the same as if you had been under the influence of alcohol rather than drugs. With one notable exception. For an operating while impaired by drugs conviction, your license will be restricted for 180 days rather than only 90 days.

DUI Cases Present Many Opportunities for a Skilled Defense Attorney

Although you may not realize it, drunk driving cases are some of the most complicated criminal cases out there. Often, that’s to your benefit. The burden is on the prosecutor to establish that you were properly arrested and that you were either impaired or intoxicated. Without giving away too much of our strategy in these cases, here are some of the questions we’ll be exploring in your case:

  • Did the police have grounds to pull you over in the first place?
  • Did the police have grounds to believe that you were intoxicated?
  • Did the police correctly administer the field sobriety tests?
  • Was the officer who administered the field sobriety tests properly trained?
  • Did the police correctly administer the “preliminary breath test” (the roadside breathalyzer)?
  • Was the preliminary breath test correctly calibrated?
  • Did the police have probable cause to arrest you at all?
  • Did the police read you your Miranda rights?
  • Did the police correctly administer the evidentiary breath test (the breathalyzer you probably took back at the police station, what’s referred to in Michigan as the Datamaster)?
  • Was the evidentiary breath test correctly calibrated?
  • Was the officer who administered the evidentiary breath test properly trained?
  • If your case involved a blood draw, did the police have a valid warrant or was your consent to the blood draw valid?
  • Was the blood draw conducted properly?
  • Was the person who performed the blood draw properly qualified?
  • Was the blood sample stored properly?
  • Did the laboratory properly test your blood?

Answering “no” to any of these questions can potentially have a dramatic effect on your case. Contact us as soon as possible to find out how.

We Know Drunk Driving Cases

Grabel & Associates has handled drunk driving cases in nearly every court in Michigan. We’ve successfully obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and pleas to reduced offenses. In some cases, we’ve been able to get charges reduced to traffic tickets. Don’t try to go it alone thinking that the prosecutor will go easy on you. They won’t. You need an experience criminal defense attorney in your corner.

Contact us online or call our 24/7 defense hotline at 1-800-342-7896 to see what we can do for your case.

Grabel & Associates defends any of the following Michigan DUI charges:


We will challenge rights violations and faulty testing procedures, including:

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