In Michigan, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causing someone’s death will result in severe felony charges. If convicted, you could face a prison sentence ranging from 15 to 20 years. Additionally, if your impaired driving leads to serious injury, you can be charged with a major felony, which carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years.

Statistics show that 30% of fatal car accidents involve drunk drivers. Since driving requires mental and physical concentration, it remains important to refrain from using any substance that negatively affects your ability to operate a vehicle. Of course, even the most conscientious and alert driver may make a mistake while driving.

For example, one might misjudge a light, or not see an oncoming car when turning right on a red light. If those choices lead to an accident and you are ticketed for an OWI, the results are significantly more serious than “making an error in judgment.” Oftentimes, the legal and physical consequences of these situations are life altering.

According to the Michigan vehicle code, if death or injury results from an accident involving an intoxicated driver, that driver can be charged with a felony DUI. This is irrespective of whether the official charge is operating while intoxicated (OWI), operating while visibly impaired (OWVI), operating with the presence of drugs (OWPD), or driving with a suspended, revoked, or denied license. Because of the gravity of these charges, those who are charged with an OWI are strongly recommended to reach out to a drunk driving attorney before speaking with police.

Michigan OWI Definition

Man being placed under arrest with handcuffs being put around his wristMichigan Law uses the term OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and includes driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some people may refer to these arrests as DUI’s. However, the proper term is OWI. In regards to alcohol, an OWI is defined as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher when operating a standard vehicle. If you are driving a commercial vehicle, the blood alcohol content may not be 0.04% or higher.

Finally, drivers younger than 21 years old may not drive if their blood alcohol is 0.02% or higher. Additionally, if law enforcement suspects a driver is high on drugs, a breath, blood, or urine test may be ordered. Some drivers refuse the initial breath test. However, police officers may obtain necessary legal paperwork and compel testing.

Penalties for OWI Causing Injury

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated carries severe penalties. Drivers convicted of an OWI that caused a serious injury may be charged with a five year felony, lose their car, and face fines. Also, the injured party may sue in civil court for damages. It’s important to note that a drunk, or high driver need not be operating the vehicle when the accident occurred.

One example would be an impaired driver that falls asleep, crashes into a parked car, and proceeds to block an intersection. A few minutes later, another car turns a corner and smashes into the intoxicated person’s vehicle. The impaired driver may not have been driving at the time of the accident. Yet, the driver of the car that simply turned the corner certainly didn’t expect to find a car blocking the road. So, the impaired driver is responsible for any injuries to the unsuspecting driver. Basically, these cases are complicated. So, make sure you contact an experienced OWI attorney if you are involved in any accident that results in injury.

Penalties for OWI Resulting in Death

Michigan considers impaired driving causing another person’s death an extremely serious offense. This felony charge may lead to a 15 year prison sentence and up to $10,000 in fines. Similar to every OWI case, the prosecution must show intoxication. If there is no proof you were intoxicated, higher charges must be dropped. Then, the prosecutor must prove you were responsible for the accident. This is why you hire an experienced OWI defense attorney. Convictions for OWI related offenses carry severe penalties and affect your future career. For this reason, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney that understands OWI cases.

Defenses for DUI Involving Death or Serious Injury

To build a case for DUI causing death or injury in Michigan, two primary elements need to be proved:

  1. You were operating a vehicle under the influence.
  2. Your intoxicated driving led to someone’s death or serious injury.

Based on these elements, the potential defenses include:

Intoxication: Your defense lawyer might challenge the validity, reliability, or admissibility of the blood test. Moreover, the officer’s subjective judgment of your intoxication can also be scrutinized. If these challenges are successful, the prosecutor may either drop the charges or amend them to lesser offenses, such as reckless driving leading to injury/death or a moving violation causing injury/death.

Causation: The prosecutor must establish both factual and proximate causation to link your driving to the injury or death. Each type of causation requires distinct legal examinations, which largely come from established Tort law.

Cause of Death: The fatality should directly result from your driving. If this can be contested, the charge might be reduced to a misdemeanor OWI without felony enhancement.

Nature of Injuries: By legal definition, the injuries should either cause severe disfigurement or seriously impair bodily functions.

Consequences of Causing Injury or Death

Upon conviction for a DUI causing injury or death in Michigan, severe penalties can be expected, such as:

For Serious Injury: Up to five years in prison and a fine ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

For Causing Death: Up to 15 years in prison and a fine between $2,500 and $10,000.

For Death of an Emergency Responder: Up to 20 years in prison with a fine ranging from $2,500 to $10,000.

Driver’s License: Revocation for at least one year. For those with a prior revocation in the last seven years, the minimum revocation is five years.

Vehicle Penalties: Immobilization of your vehicle for half a year and confiscation of your license plate.

Driving Record: Addition of six points to your state driving record.

Financial Penalties: A Driver Responsibility fee of $1,000 for two consecutive years.

Enhanced Penalties for Elevated BAC

Should you be part of an accident leading to serious injury or death with a blood alcohol content of .17 or above, and if you’ve had a previous OWI conviction in the past 7 years, your penalties will intensify. Part of Michigan’s Super Drunk law, this adds an additional five years on to the maximum potential sentence. This could result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years for causing a death and up to 10 years for causing serious injury in a single incident.