All About DUI’s In Oakland County, MI

Being charged with a DUI in Michigan is a serious matter and should never be taken lightly. This is particularly true in Oakland County where it’s not unheard of for someone to receive jail time even for their first offense.

In fact, Oakland County received national attention in 2011 when a judge sentenced NBA player Jalen Rose to 20 days in jail for drunk driving. Needless to say, law enforcement treats DUI’s very seriously in this area, so if you’re being charged with one, you should too.

This article provides information on DUI’s in Oakland County. This includes penalties, potential impact on your future, and legal options.

Video of attorney Mike Kelly sitting down and discussing details on a DUI's in Oakland County, Michigan

Location Overview

Oakland County is part of the metropolitan Detroit area and is located northwest of Detroit. Oakland is the second largest Michigan county by population only behind Wayne County.

One court system that commonly processes DUI cases in Oakland County is the 52-1 District Court. This particular court has a reputation for handing out jail time and other harsh sentences for drunk driving offences.

When someone is convicted of drunk driving in this area and is sentenced to jail time, the Oakland County Jail is the facility where the offender will likely serve this sentence.

Here’s a list of the cities that comprise Oakland County:

Auburn Hills



Bloomfield Hills



Commerce Township





Hazel Park



Huntington Woods

Keego Harbor

Lake Orion



Madison Heights


New Hudson


Oak Park




Pleasant Ridge



Royal Oak

South Lyon



Union Lake

Walled Lake


West Bloomfield

White Lake


Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)

The “legal jargon” for drunk driving related offenses can often be confusing. Many people ask “what’s the difference between a DUI and OWI.”

The truth is that from a conversational standpoint, a DUI and OWI mean the exact same thing. In other words, both acronyms are used interchangeably to describe the same offense of “drunk driving.”

Legally speaking, Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) is the proper term for most drunk driving offenses in Michigan. In fact, DUI’s are no longer “officially” used by law enforcement or court systems.

In Michigan, an OWI is most commonly defined as operating a motorized vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more.

An OWI can also be defined as operating a motorized vehicle:

– Under the influence of any amount of a controlled substance

– While under the influence of intoxicating liquor, controlled substance or intoxicating substance.

Car Keys on a table next to several beer cans and a red cup, symbolizing a DUI

Oakland County Drunk Driving Offenses

Here’s a list of various drunk driving offenses an offender may be charged with in the State of Michigan.

OWI – Operating While Intoxicated is the most common offense in regards to DUI’s. From a legal standpoint, an OWI arrest may occur when someone’s ability to drive is affected by the consumption of an alcoholic beverage.

OWVI – For an OVWI, there isn’t a minimum BAC requirement. That is, law enforcement may make an arrest if they see evidence where they believe the driver is impaired regardless of the actual level of intoxication.

UBAC/UBAL – Unlawful Bodily Alcohol Content is also referred to as Unlawful Bodily Alcohol Level. Simply put, an offender may be charged with this offense when they operate a motor vehicle with a BAC above 0.08 regardless of whether it affects their ability to drive.

Will I Receive Jail Time?

Most people want to avoid jail time when being sentenced for an OWI. In Oakland County, this depends on various factors. If you are a first time offender and you were not super drunk (0.17% or higher) you may not receive jail time. Yet, there are no guarantees. In Oakland County, repeat offenders often do get sentenced to some jail time.

Basically, handling an OWI case in Oakland County is different from other counties and a good lawyer knows how to handle the differences.

Regardless of the circumstances of your arrest, it’s important to have an experienced OWI attorney with knowledge of the local court system. Having this legal expertise can be the difference in whether or not you receive jail time.

Oakland County OWI Penalties

A chart showing the various degrees of drunk driving classifications, charges, and penalties in Michigan. This ranges from OWI punishable by up to 93 days in jail all the way up to OWI causing death punishable by up to 15 years in prison

Before 1980, drunk driving laws and penalties were less strict throughout the United States. This changed when Candace Lightner founded MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver.

The group continues to work hard today to eliminate drunk driving in the United States and Canada. Many of today’s strict DUI penalties are due to this group’s work.

Michigan law defines an OWI (driving under the influence) as having a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.08% or higher. If your BAC is 0.17% or higher this is categorized as super drunk.

The percentages change if driving a commercial vehicle, or if the driver is under 21 years of age. When driving a commercial vehicle, the law states that you may not have a BAC of 0.04% or higher.

A driver under the age of 21 may not have a BAC of 0.02% or more. Basically, Michigan laws aim to prevent drinking and driving.

Various penalties can occur as a result of drunk driving. These penalties may include:

  • Jail time
  • Fines
  • Ignition control devices installed on your vehicle
  • Community service
  • Losing your license
  • Points added to your driving record
  • Car insurance increasing
  • Counseling
  • Urine and drug testing

Choosing an Attorney

When a person is arrested for a possible OWI, it’s extremely important to hire a lawyer that works in this area of law, particularly one who’s experienced in the local court systems.

All attorneys are NOT the same. For example, a great general practice attorney or one specialized in another area of law may not be experienced with the judges, clerks, and processes of Oakland County Courts in regards to drunk driving cases.

If your cousin is an attorney in Grand Rapids, he/she may be unfamiliar with the judges and processes in Oakland County.

Also, Oakland County Courts do share the reputation of being “tough” on drunk drivers. That doesn’t imply you can drink and drive in other Michigan counties; but, Oakland County penalties tend to be stricter. So, it’s vital to hire an attorney that has EXPERIENCE in Oakland County OWI cases.

In short, an excellent attorney knows how to navigate the courts to achieve the best outcome.

If you or someone you know was arrested in Oakland County for an OWI or another drunk driving related offense, contact our experienced Michigan DUI defense team today.