OWI vs DUI: An OWI Charge in Michigan & the DUI Legal Term
Driving a vehicle while intoxicated is a serious criminal offense across the United States. In the United States, and in no other nation, this crime is not always called a “DUI,” but D.U.I. is America’s most widely used abbreviation for this common driving crime.
Broadly stated, the crime best known as DUI (driving under the influence of intoxicants) has separate and distinct statutes in each. All 50 states and the District of Columbia created their own laws, with no two states tracking another exactly on what constitutes the evidence needed for a DUI conviction.
This seemingly schizophrenic roll-out of statutes has important and fascinating historic roots, that have occurred since the early 1900s. For example, forensic breathalyzers were only invented and deployed in the late 1930s. Before that, an officer had to obtain a blood alcohol content test in any case that needed that proof of intoxication (e.g., a crash occurred, and the suspected drunk driver was not conscious).
What are other alternatives for DUI Charges? The abbreviation “DWI” is the second most widely used abbreviation. It can stand for “driving a vehicle while under the influence,” as in Wyoming.
Alternatively, the majority of DWI states call the crime “driving while intoxicated” as in Texas and New York. North Carolina calls their D.W.I. offense “driving while impaired.” Other USA jurisdictions use their own “descriptions” and acronyms, such as:
Ohio – OVI
Oregon – DUII
Wyoming – DWUI
Maine, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts use OUI
For Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan, OWI.
Knowing Some OWI and DUI Differences
The OWI meaning. In a handful of states, the crime of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is sometimes referred to as OWI. The crime of OWI (in different states) can stand for operating while intoxicated or operating while impaired. This is the choice of those states’ lawmakers, knowing that the dominant national abbreviation is Driving Under the Influence or DUI.
What is the difference between OWI and DUI? Citizens driving in various states need to be aware of these definitions to understand the consequences of any charges they may face. For example, in Michigan, OWI (operating while intoxicated) is the name of the drunken driving crime.
Two additional states near Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana, also use this acronym to refer to the driving offense of driving intoxicated rather than DUI. operating a motor vehicle while impaired (by drugs or other chemicals) or intoxicated by ethanol (drinking alcohol).
The legal limit for drunken driving is 0.08 grams per deciliter of ethanol. However, if an operator is impaired by drugs or other chemicals, he or she can violate a state’s OWI-DUI laws.
“What if I am Impaired, But Not Over the Limit?”
Only two states also have created “lesser included offenses” for an OWI called “DWAI,” or “driving while ability impaired.” So, for drivers in Colorado and New York who have had some alcohol, but are under the 0.08 grams percent BAC limit, a DUI lawyer may be able to obtain a reduction of the criminal charges. Michigan does impose less punishment for an OWVI charge than an OWI offense, but both statutes count as a first offense.
Adults and minors (i.e., those under the age of 21 when arrested) can be found guilty of driving while intoxicated if their BAC exceeds 0.08% and 0.02%, respectively. Nonetheless, criminal charges may still be pressed even if these limits aren’t exceeded.
A high BAC can lead to a DUI or OWI charge, depending on the state. Once your BAC reaches the legal limit, no additional proof is needed for a prosecutor to charge you with driving drunk.
Remember that an accused person need not have a high BAC (in a breath or blood test) to be convicted of a drunk driving offense. The prosecutor must bring forth all evidence sufficient to get a jury or a judge to find guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” due to drugs, alcohol or a combination of the two substances. Plus, if proof of other contraband substances were used by the driver, those may be enough for a finding of guilt.
If other evidence of impairment is presented by a driver while behind the wheel, he or she can be convicted of a DUI offense without proof existing by means of a high BAC. Police are trained on how to administer and “score” roadside exercises called “field sobriety tests.” Most detained drivers think that these are required, but they are not.
Even if no field tests are attempted by the DUI suspect, other evidence may still support a conviction. All states allow a prosecutor to prove impairment by use of eyewitness testimony, video camera footage, and other circumstantial evidence, such as the smell of alcoholic beverages on the driver’s breath.
As mentioned above, sometimes states may have different monikers for these impaired driving offenses, yet the crimes are essentially the same criminal conduct. But the penalties will generally be similar regardless of whether you were legally drunk or simply impaired.
Wide Variations for OWI, DWI, OUI and DUI Penalties in America
The penalties for being proven to be OWI or DUI are similar in most states. This is due to N.H.T.S.A., a division of the federal Department of Transportation, using the threat of withholding federal highway funds for states that do not enact certain highway safety laws.
So, driving while drunk or driving after ingesting drugs that impair motor functions is a harshly punished criminal offense.
For decades, NHTSA has required all states mpose higher OUI-DUI penalties for repeat offenders, with each new conviction pushing DUI punishments higherto i and higher. A repeat offense OWI in Michigan follows the federal government’s suggestion, making any lifetime 3rd offense DUI a felony. To show the variation among different states, New Jersey never enacted a felony DUI for repeat offenses, and most states wait until a fourth DWI-DUI to create felony punishment.
The OWI-DUI consequences you will face if convicted are published in the State where arrested, and (if convicted) your exact terms and conditions at sentencing will be determined by many factors. Local OWI attorneys who focus of DUI defense will know all applicable ways to get a case reduced, dropped or “deferred,” if your state offers this to first offenders or youthful offenders.
You can be punished for DUI if you have a prior conviction or if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level that is over the State’s legal limit. The list of mandatory punishments will include (a) mandatory probation, minus days already served in jail, (b) suspension or revocation of the offender’s driver license, (c) monetary fines plus surcharges (if applicable), (d) assigning community service hours to be performed, (f) the criminal record will be communicated to the NCIC in Clarksburg, WV, and (g) potential jail time.
Don’t wait too long after you get released from jail on charges of operating while intoxicated in Michigan. Call the Barone law firm and set up a quick lawyer consultation and get your questions answered. MI DUI attorney Patrick Barone has helped thousands of Michiganders receive a more favorable outcome in court. Call him anytime at (248) 306-9158 and meet with him at his Birmingham, Clarkston, or Troy office.
When you call we will ask for your contact information, some details of your charges, and when you have been ordered to appear in court. This no obligation free consultation will give you more peace of mind, and you will know which steps you need to take next.
Don’t let the legal system decide how this plays out. Call Patrick and start turning things around.