1st (First) Offense DUI - Overview

No one plans to go out and get arrested for drunk driving. Whatever else, it usually just happens. A first offense DUI is often (although not always) a person’s first criminal arrest, and is a humbling, if not humiliating experience. 

As scary as it may seem, however, a 1st offense is not the end of the world, primarily because it is a first offense, and we all make mistakes in life. Relax, because you are not going to go to jail, or lose your job, nor are things like medical or other professional licenses at risk. As bad as all this may seem, the simple (and pleasant) truth is that you will probably not have to go through any of the things that seem to threaten you right now.

Most first time DUI offenders are law-abiding, tax-paying and productive members of society, and a drunk driving charge usually represents an isolated and unfortunate instance of poor judgment. Although Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) is a criminal charge, most people who find themselves in this situation are not criminals, in any sense of the word. 

That's easy to say, but making sure that you don’t wind up feeling (or being treated) like one is an important part of my job, as is protecting you from being seen by “the system,” with its inherent "alcohol bias."  I have to make sure you're not seen as having a risky or troubled relationship to drinking that requires extensive help, and/or burdensome preventative counseling. 

You undoubtedly felt bad enough at time of your arrest; now you need to move forward understanding that, if handled properly this is nothing more than just a minor setback. While a DUI is no trip to Disneyland, I can and will get you through this intact and otherwise protect you from all the potential negative consequences of a single bad decision.

In Michigan, there are 3 types of 1st offense DUI charges:

  1. Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)
  2. Operating While Intoxicate with a BAC of .17 or greater (High BAC), and
  3. Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI, or simply "impaired")

In this section, we’ll focus on OWI and impaired driving (OWVI) charges, and examine High BAC cases in a separate section.

In order to be considered a 1st offense charge, you cannot have had a conviction for ANY prior alcohol-related traffic offense within the 7 years preceding the date of your arrest for the current charge. This means that although you may have had a DUI many years ago, as long as the conviction for it is more than 7 years before the date of your current arrest, then this new charge can only be as a 1st offense.

A 1st Offense OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) charge carries the following potential maximum penalties:

  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours community service
  • Fine of up to $500, plus costs
  • Driver's license completely suspended for 30 days, followed by 150 days restricted
  • Possible vehicle immobilization
  • Possible ignition interlock
  • 6 points on driving record
  • $1000 driver responsibility fee for 2 years (this ends in October of 2018)

Impaired driving (OWVI), the least serious of all Michigan DUI charges, threatens the following consequences:

  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Fine of up to $300, plus costs
  • Up to 360 hours community service
  • Driver's license restricted for 90 days
  • Possible vehicle immobilization
  • 4 points on driving record
  • $500 driver responsibility fee for 2 years (this ends in October of 2018)

In the real world, the goal in any OWI or High BAC charge that cannot be dismissed or thrown out of court is to plea-bargain it down to impaired, for rather obvious reasons.

Don’t worry about jail - with only 1 possible exception in the Detroit-area, Tri-County (Oakland, Macomb and Wayne) court system, it simply does not happen. This is important, because it means that you’re not going in the first place. Therefore, looking for a lawyer with the primary goal to keep you out of jail is a waste of time.  

Instead, you hire a Michigan DUI lawyer, like me, to avoid the consequences that can and will happen in your case, like having restrictions placed on your ability to drive. Beyond that, you are at risk to get stuck on long, difficult probation with all kinds of breath and urine testing, classes, counseling, community service, support groups and more.

We need to avoid as much of all that as possible. Even though you didn't plan on getting a DUI, I will form and execute an intelligent plan to minimize the potential consequences of your charge. There may not be any jail in your future, but there still is important work to do.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
Five stars hands down!! Jeff and his legal team represented me in a seemingly impossible situation. I had many obstacles to overcome, in the end I walked out with with my driving privileges reinstated. Jeff and his team were very helpful Peter
★★★★★
Thank you for your knowledge and help in winning restoration of my driving privileges. I tried before on my own, lost (of course) and am glad I found your site. Katie
★★★★★
Just wanted to thank you for winning my license appeal. I was so happy when I got the letter in the mail that said I had won. I thank you so much for all your help and would be so happy to give your name to anyone who needs to get their license back. Mike
★★★★★
I wanted to thank you for taking my case. I would tell anybody trying to get their License back they need to talk to you. I should have done this a long time ago. Doug