Felony DUI in Michigan
Drunk driving charges in Michigan are serious offenses, carrying with them long lasting effects on an individual’s future. In situations involving felony DUI, these charges are even more severe, with permanent life altering results for an offenders future. Because of this, it is important to understand the scenarios in which an individual can be charged with felony drunk driving and the impact it has on their lives. In these situations, it’s absolutely vital to work with an expert DUI defense lawyer to minimize the impact on your future and potentially avoid jail time.
There are several specific situations under which a DUI is considered a felony instead of a misdemeanor. The State of Michigan has some of the harshest drunk driving laws in the country and has clearly laid out the guidelines for felony OWI charges and sentencing. Receiving a felony DUI in Michigan can severely inhibit an individual’s ability to seek employment, obtain housing, and also permanently bar them from voting or legally owning a firearm.
What Makes DUI a Felony?
The most common instance where a DUI is a felony in Michigan occurs when an offender is charged with Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) and has two or more prior OWI convictions. Typically, first and second offenses are considered misdemeanors which means the offender will not face incarceration for more than a year. While misdemeanors are still a criminal matter that should not be taken lightly, they have far less of a long term effect on an individual than felonies. Felony charges for drunk driving are generally reserved for more grievous offenses.
There are several other scenarios in which a drunk driving offense can be considered a felony, even on the first offense. These involve offenses which result in serious bodily injury to another party, or even worse, the death of another person. In these situations, the offense is so serious that the harsh penalties and consequences associated with a felony are warranted. It should be noted that in either scenario, it must be made clear that the individual’s intoxication was the primary cause of the accident.
3rd Offense OWI (OWI III)
The most common scenario in which a DUI becomes a felony in Michigan is when it is the offender’s third conviction. Officially known as operating while intoxicated (OWI) or operating while visibly impaired (OWVI), convictions for two or more of these offenses in the past means any subsequent offenses will be charged as felonies.
3rd Offense OWI Penalties
A third offense OWI or OWVI is classified as a Class E felony, the penalties include:
- Minimum prison sentence of one year, ranging up to a maximum of five years
- Fines ranging up to $5000
- Community service ranging from 60 to 180 days
- Revocation of operators license
- Adding of six points to an individual’s driving record
- Possible forfeiture of the offenders vehicle
OWI Causing Death Or Serious Bodily Injury
In Michigan, there are certain things that you can do or cause to happen by driving while intoxicated that will trigger special penalties. For example, if you hurt another person while you are OWI, then this can result in harsher penalties or even a more serious criminal charge. Additionally, if you are charged with an OWI while your license is currently suspended, revoked, or denied, then you face enhanced consequences. Here’s more on these aggravating OWI circumstances.
OWI Causing Death or Injury Penalties
If you are found to be OWI in which you cause the death or serious bodily injury to another person, then you may be charged with a felony. Critically, this crime carries with it the possibility of an extended jail sentence and hefty fines. Your license may also be revoked and your vehicle immobilized. Here are a few of the additional penalties that you may receive for this crime:
- If you cause someone to die: up to 15 years’ imprisonment, or a fine of $2,500 to $10,000, or both.
- If you cause someone to be injured: up to 5 years’ imprisonment, or a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, or both.
- If you cause an emergency responder to die: up to 20 years’ imprisonment, or a fine of $2,500 to $10,000, or both.
- Driver’s license revocation and denial for a minimum of 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years).
- License plate confiscation.
- Vehicle immobilization for up to 180 days unless the vehicle is forfeited.
- Possible vehicle forfeiture.
- 6 points added to your driving record.
How Prior Convictions Affects Your OWI Charge
No matter which type of OWI charge that you are convicted of, if you receive another OWI conviction within 7 years, then you may receive harsher penalties. For example, let’s say you were convicted of a first offense OWI 5 years ago. You paid your fines or otherwise completed your sentence. If you are convicted of a second OWI, then you will be sentenced according to the penalties for a second offense OWI. A third OWI conviction is a felony in Michigan. Critically, unlike a second offense OWI, if you are convicted of a third one, it does not matter how long ago your second offense was for purposes of determining whether a harsher penalty should be imposed. What this means is that if a third OWI conviction occurs at any point in your lifetime, then you face enhanced penalties.
As the most serious type of drunk driving offense, felony DUI offenses should not be handled by just any drunk driving attorney. In order to ensure the best possible outcome, it is vital that an experienced criminal defense lawyer with expertise in drunk driving cases represents your interests in court. A skilled DUI attorney will be able to craft a viable defense that can greatly improve the odds of a successful outcome for those charged with felony drunk driving. This can be the difference between living the rest of your life with significant legal and social restrictions, or being able to learn from your mistakes and have a productive future.
The skilled attorneys at George Law have decades of combined experience working with those facing felony OWI charges to ensure the best possible legal outcome. Thanks to strong and long standing working relationships with the local courts, prosecution and legal system in the Metro-Detroit Area, we are able to represent your case in a manner that most other firms are simply incapable of doing. If you are facing felony drunk driving charges in Michigan, please contact our Michigan law office today to see how we can help.